HONOLULU (CN) - Undercover cops in Hawaii will not be allowed to have sex with prostitutes during sting operations, under an amended billed passed by the Legislature.
The Legislature drew national coverage last week when a vote was scheduled on the sexually permissive amendment. The vote was postponed and that section was removed, though undercover officers still will be allowed to solicit sex.
(JDL), the bill entitled,
House Bill 1926, "A Bill For An Act Relating to Crime" passed in amended form, according to a legislative report by the Hawaii Committee on Judiciary and Labor.
The bill amended the state Penal Code by "(2) Limit[ing] the law enforcement exemption from the offense of Prostitution to exclude acts involving sexual penetration or sadomasochistic abuse" and "(4) Amend[ing] the offense of Solicitation of a Minor for Prostitution by: (C) Providing a law enforcement exemption."
The exemption is now just solicitation of a prostitute.
The original bill sparked local and national outrage, because it stated: "This section shall not apply to any member of a police department, a sheriff, or a law enforcement officer acting in the course and scope of duties."
It also excluded law enforcement from prosecution for sexual penetration.
The bill passed on Friday, March 28 now defines "sexual conduct" as "sadomasochistic abuse" and "sexual penetration."
Testifying in support of the measure were The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Office of the Prosecuting Attorney of the County of Kauai, Hawaii Family Forum, Hawaii Catholic Conference, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), Courage Worldwide Hawaii, Courage House Hawaii, and numerous concerned individuals.
The Honolulu Police Department testified in opposition to the bill.
The Crime Victim Compensation Commission, Office of the Public Defender, Department of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu, IMUAlliance, and one concerned individual provided comments.
PASS Executive Director Kathryn Xian testified last week: "The dangers of allowing law enforcement to engage in sexual penetration with prostituted persons include abuse of power, sexual assault, and conflict of interest relationships between law enforcement and the illegal sex industry."
As Courthouse News reported last week, Xian had called this "interpersonal," "investigative tool" "problematic." She said: "Other states, such as Illinois, California, New York, Washington D.C., Texas, and Georgia - states with high rates of sex trafficking and prostitution - do not allow sexual penetration to be used by law enforcement during prostitution investigations, yet have no problem completing successful investigations and arrests."
Xiang told the Associated Press she was surprised that police agreed to the amendment.
Honolulu police spokeswoman Teresa Bell told the AP that officers have never been allowed to have sex with prostitutes under department rules, so making it illegal won't change how officers operate.
The amended Bill was passed by four Democratic senators - Clayton Hee, Maile Shimabukuro, Mike Gabbard and Brickwood Galuteria. There were no votes; three senators did not vote.
Sen. Hee met with Honolulu police officials last week and sought to amend the bill before its passing.
Hee told the AP, "I suppose that in retrospect the police probably feel somewhat embarrassed about this whole situation. ... But, thankfully, the issue has been brought to light and the behavior has been addressed. ...
"The police support the idea that sexual penetration shall not be an exempt, permitted behavior by the police in making arrests on prostitutes," Hee said. "They agree this tool is not an appropriate tool for their toolbox."
Hee told the Star-Advertiser that police were all right with modifying the bill, as long as they were still allowed to solicit sex from prostitutes.
Democratic committee Chairman Karl Rhoades, who issued the report told the AP that he had no reason to suspect cops are out of line and said police testimony "convinced him to amend the bill."
"I was reluctant to interfere in something that they face all the time," Rhoades said. "If they think it's necessary to not have it in the statute, this is one area where I did defer to them and say, 'I hope you're not having sex with prostitutes.'"
Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has not yet commented. He is expected to sign the bill into law as amended.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.