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Hawaii's Police, Lawmakers Reach Consensus On Prostitution Law

Honolulu police officials and key legislators in Hawaii now agree that a state law needs to be changed so that undercover police officers will be breaking the law if they have sexual relations with prostitutes.

As we've reported, headlines across the nation and around the Web — such as the one we posted on Friday that said "In Hawaii, Sex With A Prostitute May Be Legal For Undercover Cops" — led to quick promises of action from leading lawmakers in the state.

Those lawmakers appear to have been surprised to learn that a decades-old provision in the state's criminal code exempted law enforcement agents from prosecution if they had sex with prostitutes while "acting in the course and scope of duties."

Now, as Honolulu's KHON-TV reports, "a key lawmaker and Honolulu police have come to an agreement about changing Hawaii's decades-old prostitution law."

The Honolulu Police Department "agrees that the sexual penetration language in the law that they are exempt from should no longer be an exemption for police officers," State Sen. Clayton Hee, a Democrat, told the station. Hee chairs the state Senate's Judiciary and Labor Committee.

According to KHON, Honolulu Police Maj. Jerry Inouye "says HPD has never allowed police officers to have sex with prostitutes and that HPD only wanted to keep 'the part that allows an officer to make a verbal agreement for sex for money because that's the crux for most prostitution investigations.' "

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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