Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach (Photo: Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons)

A green light for cops in the red-light district?

An unusual legislative battle is going on in Hawaii concerning police and prostitutes.

The state Legislature is working on a bill that would crack down on prostitution. As originally written, the bill would remove an exemption that allows undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes during an investigation. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

But the bill was revised to keep the exemption after police testified in favor of it, according to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It has passed the House and is scheduled to go before a Senate committee Friday.

Police “made assurances that internal policies and procedures are in place to prevent officers from taking advantage of it,” according to the story. Without the exemption, police say prostitution suspects and pimps would be able to figure out if a customer is a cop based on “exactly how far the officer can and cannot go.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, since this is undercover work, Honolulu police have not said “how often or even whether they use the provision,” according to the Star-Advertiser.

Opponents of the exemption say it’s unnecessary and “can further victimize sex workers,” according to the Star-Advertiser. Advocates also say women who have escaped prostitution “commonly report” being coerced into giving police sexual favors in order to stay out of jail. The Star-Advertiser cited several cases across the country where police officers have been accused of sexually assaulting sex workers.

State Rep. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat, amended the bill after hearing from police.

“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,'” Rhoads told the Star-Advertiser.

Yes, Hawaii police officers, we hope you’re not having sex with prostitutes.

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