HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers on Friday vowed to restore a line in a bill that would make it illegal for police to have sex with prostitutes.
Currently in Hawaii, police working within the scope of duty are exempt from all prostitution laws. A line in House Bill 1926 would have removed that exemption if officers have sex with prostitutes, but it was removed when Honolulu police told lawmakers that exemption was an important part of fighting crime.
Advocates and law enforcement experts found that argument implausible. After many of them testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee – and with no police in attendance – lawmakers were inclined to agree.
The committee deferred decision on the large crime bill by one week. Committee Chairman Clayton Hee, a Democrat representing Kaneohe and Kaaawa, said its next version would once again outlaw police from having sex with prostitutes.
“I will tell you that without question I can’t imagine police officers being exempt from the law,” he said. “To condone police officers’ sexual penetration in making arrests is simply nonsensical to me. And I would note that HPD’s absence is deafening.
“You can expect that exemption will be out of the recommendations of the chair.”
Added Democratic Sen. Malama Solomon, who represents Hilo: “I find that appalling. I just can’t understand how that can happen.”
The promise from lawmakers to toss the exemption came as a relief to people who testified at the hearing.
Kathryn Xian, the founder of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, testified to the committee that the practice of “cop-checking” that police claimed makes the exemption necessary does not jive with the accounts of former prostitutes.
“I’m really glad Hee’s making that policy call,” said Xian, a Democrat running for Congress in Hawaii’s first district. “It’s long overdue. I think it will benefit a lot of victims out there.”