HONOLULU — A little-known provision allowing Hawaii’s undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes in the line of duty was about to be put to bed until Honolulu police officers convinced lawmakers in the state House to keep the protection enshrined in law.
The amended bill, which increases the penalties against johns and pimps who are not also bound to protect and serve, went before a state Senate committee late last week. Now prostitutes want a piece of the action before the bill advances further.
“If members of the vice squad get a free pass to have sex with me, then I think I’m entitled to hazard pay for assuming the risk of sleeping with the enemy,” said one prostitute who goes by the name of Sugar Sweet.
Sweet then added, “Are you a reporter? You have to tell me if you are.”
The risks are palpable. “Police abuse is part of the life of prostitution,” said Melissa Farley of the Prostitution Research and Education group, indicating that former prostitutes often report having been coerced into granting sexual favors to the police in order to avoid arrest or further harassment.
A spokesperson for the women’s advocacy group Sex Workers Unite (Local 53) claimed, “The least the state can offer this vulnerable group of sex workers is compensation for the risk to their livelihood and extreme physical discomfort of potentially fornicating with some of Hawaii’s less-than-finest officers.”
“Many of today’s officers spend more time eating Hawaiian plate lunch than they do working out at the police gym—and man those moustaches can leave a mighty burn,” offered Sweet. “Street walking with the boys in blue on the prowl is no walk in the park, let me tell you.”
Experts have called the unprecedented police exemption “antiquated at best,” unnecessary, and an invitation for police misconduct. But Honolulu Police Maj. Jerry Inouye testified that doing away with the exemption would allow pimps and prostitutes to know “exactly how far the undercover officer can and cannot go.”
Without the provision, a representative for the police department warned, “We’d probably have to completely renegotiate the vice squad’s benefit package, which would be a real nightmare.”