UK & World News
Hawaii Law Lets Cops Have Sex With Prostitutes
Hawaii lawmakers are debating a controversial measure that allows undercover police officers to have sex with prostitutes during investigations.
The bill, aimed at cracking down on sex trafficking, includes a legal protection that officials say is needed to catch criminals in the act.
Lawmakers in Honolulu initially scrapped the provision, but it was later restored following testimony from police officials.
A state Senate committee is slated to debate the revised measure after it made passage through the House.
Some have criticised the provision, saying it could further victimise women, many of whom are forced into the sex trade.
Melissa Farley, executive director of San Francisco-based Prostitution Research and Education, expressed concern that some officers could take advantage of the exemption.
"Police abuse is part of the life of prostitution," she said.
Law enforcement officials, however, made assurances to lawmakers that internal policies prevent officers from abusing the legal provision.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Honolulu Police Major Jerry Inouye said: "The procedures and conduct of the undercover officers are regulated by department rules, which by nature have to be confidential.
"Because if prostitution suspects, pimps and other people are privy to that information, they're going to know exactly how far the undercover officer can and cannot go."
Democratic state Representative Karl Rhoads called the issue a "murky area".
He said: "I was reluctant to interfere in something that they face all the time.
"If they (police) 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.'"
In other part of the US, there have been instances of police being accused of victimising prostitutes.
In Philadelphia, a former officer is on trial for allegedly raping two prostitutes after forcing them at gunpoint to take narcotics.
A former West Sacramento, California, officer is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of raping prostitutes in his police cruiser while on duty.
And last year in Massachusetts, an ex-cop pleaded guilty to extorting sex from prostitutes he threatened with arrest.