HPD: Undercover officers never have sex with prostitutes

Honolulu police want to make one thing clear: Undercover officers do not have sex with prostitutes, despite a decades old state law that included an exemption for officers conducting prostitution stings.

The wording of Hawaii’s prostitution law has received national attention. On Friday, one of the department’s top brass set the record straight.

“It’s a sad day when people can put that out there as something that one of the largest police departments in the nation that’s accredited that we would condone anything like that,” said Asst. Chief Susan Dowsett of the Honolulu Police Department.

Dowsett should know. She headed up the Narco-Vice Department for a decade.

“They never have sex with prostitutes,” Asst. Chief Dowsett said. “We have never authorized that. They never will and anyone who has alleged that has occurred is absolutely encouraged to come forward to the police department, to the Honolulu Police Commission, to the state attorney general’s office, to the FBI if you need to.”

Dowsett says HPD officers do not need to have the ability to have sex with prostitutes, just make a deal. “We never wanted officers to be able to have sex with prostitutes,” she said. “We need that ability to be able to negotiate, to get an agreement, so that we can get a violation according to the law that we have.”

Now the state Senate is one step closer to making the law clear. “It’s a common sense approach,” said Sen. Clayton Hee (D), chairman of the judiciary committe. “It enunciates that prostitution is what makes it illegal is a financial transaction.”

The new wording in the bill sits well with those who try and help prostitutes get out of the business.

“We’re okay with the amendments completely,” said human rights activist Kathryn Xian. “Undercover police officers need the ability to verbally agree or offer to pay for sex as an undercover operation, but what they cannot do is violate the sanctity and dignity and the physicality of a person through sexual penetration.”

The amended language in Bill 1926 passed out of committee and moves to a second reading next week.

  • Read HB1926 in its entirety here.
  • Read the current law here.

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