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Senate committee to decide police/prostitution bill

By Sam Eifling

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 6:23 a.m. HST, Mar 28, 2014

Hawaii lawmakers are expected to advance a bill Friday that will end an unusual provision in state law that allows police to have sex with prostitutes in the course of their investigations.

The measure (HB 1926) originally included a line that would have banned police from having sex with prostitutes. Honolulu police told lawmakers that their current legal exemption protects their cover during investigations. The House changed the bill to leave the exemption intact.

But after The Associated Press wrote about the police lobbying, leading to a firestorm of criticism, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee blasted the exemption and criticized police for defending it.

Sen. Clayton Hee, the committee's chairman, called the exemption outrageous and said he will amend the bill to end the exemption when the committee convenes again Friday morning.

"To me it's a matter of common sense, and how is it we want law enforcement to limit their activities when making an arrest on prostitutes," said Hee, a Democrat representing Heeia and Laie.

Honolulu police say their internal policies hold officers to high standards of conduct. Lawmakers have said there's no obvious evidence of wrongdoing on the part of police.

Hee and Honolulu police met privately on Tuesday. During that meeting, both parties said, police agreed the exemption wasn't necessary so long as they are still allowed to solicit sex.

Unlike last week, when Hee called their absence "deafening," police have said they will attend Friday's hearing to answer lawmakers' questions.

While it's not entirely clear given the large number of state and local jurisdictions, it appears Michigan is the only other state that permits police to have sex with prostitutes during investigations.

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