The Honolulu Police Department responded Friday to recent news reports about an exemption in state law that allows undercover officers to engage in sex with prostitutes.
HPD says that the department did not ask for permission to engage in sexual conduct with prostitutes.
Under Hawaii law (HRS Section 712-1200), HPD says merely agreeing to pay a fee for sexual conduct constitutes a violation of the statute thus, the exemption for police officers is necessary so they can conduct prostitution investigations.
If there was no exemption, officers would not be able to respond to a verbal offer from a suspected prostitute. This does not mean that officers are allowed to engage in sexual penetration, according to police.
When HB 1926 was originally drafted, police say it contained language that allowed the law enforcement exemption unless "the act" involved sexual penetration or deviate sexual intercourse. It was poorly worded so the department asked the committee to omit that sentence, or our officers would not have been able to respond to even a verbal offer of sexual intercourse from a suspected prostitute -- one of the most common prostitution violations.
HPD reiterates the request was not made to allow officers to engage in sexual penetration.
"If we were to codify these rules, we would be publicly revealing specific undercover officer guidelines and Hawaii's prostitutes, 'pimps,' and johns would be able to use the information to avoid prosecution and continue their illegal activity," said HPD in a statement released Friday. "The department is keenly aware that prostitutes are often victims of human trafficking or other offenses. Because of this, we work closely with the Hawaii Coalition Against Human Trafficking and other community groups"
HPD says its goal is to conduct fair, accurate investigations, taking into consideration the need for prosecution as well as the need to protect the innocent. To accomplish this, HPD must maintain careful oversight of all prostitution cases.
There are also strict written guidelines to regulate the conduct of officers conducting prostitution investigations.
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