Full width home advertisement

Post Page Advertisement [Top]

There’s a heated debate going on right now in Alaska between the police department and sex workers’ rights advocates over a bill that would make it illegal for police officers to have sexual contact with sex workers before arresting them. If Alaska passes this bill, they’ll become the first state to outlaw any sexual contact between police and the people they’re investigating. Only two months ago, Michigan became the last state in the U.S. to make it illegal for police officers to sexually penetrate sex workers in the course of an investigation.
Advocates of Alaska’s House Bill 73 and Senate Bill 112 say that police catching sex workers in the act by engaging with them sexually is a human rights violation, and Amnesty International has made an official statement supporting that claim: “Such conduct is an abuse of authority and in some instances amounts to rape and/or entrapment.”
“It's incredibly traumatic to be tricked into having sex with someone who stops in the middle and puts you in handcuffs and takes you against your will to be locked up in a jail cell,” explained Terra Burns, one of the founders of Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP), a group of current and former sex workers, sex trafficking victims, and allies working towards safety and protection for everyone in Alaska's sex trade. “Women have told me that years later they still have PTSD symptoms when they see a police car.”
But police in Alaska say that if they can’t touch sex workers at all, they have no chance of conducting successful undercover investigations. The problem with the bill, Alaska cops explain, is that their covers will be too easily blown by savvy sex workers who know what officers are and are not allowed to do, and employ a tactic called “cop checking” to sniff them out.
"(In an undercover investigation) they ask one simple question: 'Touch my breast.' OK, I'm out of the car. Done. And the case is over," Anchorage Police Department Deputy Chief Sean Case told the Alaska Dispatch News in a hypothetical example. "If we make that act (of touching) a misdemeanor, we have absolutely no way of getting involved in that type of arrest."
But this is not the same tune the department was singing when the bill was first introduced earlier this year. The proposed House Bill 73 and Senate Bill 112 would expand an existing law that prohibits sexual contact with suspects already in police custody to include those under investigation. And when they were first proposed, Case said that they were insulting to law enforcement, because internal regulations already prohibit such activity, and, of course, no officer would have sex with someone they were investigating.
In a letter to legislators sent in January, Alaska Assistant Attorney General Kaci Schroeder stated in no uncertain terms, “It is neither legal nor acceptable for a law enforcement officer to engage in sexual conduct with a person that that officer is investigating.” She continued to explain that if this were to happen, the officer in question would be fired, decertified, and likely charged with a crime. In sharing this letter with Glamour, Burns made a point to add that CUSP has evidence of several instances of police officers engaging in sexual activity with suspects and facing no charges or disciplinary action.
Burns says that the police department changed its tune about the legality/necessity of sexual contact once the bills started getting some traction, implying that they only supported the bill in the beginning when they didn’t think it would pass. She described Case’s explanation for why the bill will hurt law enforcement as claims that “they need to be able to have sexual contact with sex trafficking victims in order to rescue them by arresting them.”
Burns’ disdain for the rationale that sexual contact is a necessary element of police investigation of sex work is quite clear, and, apparently, it’s a disdain that the public shares. In 2016, CUSP hired Hayes Research Group to learn what voters think of this issue. The survey showed that 92 percent of voters were not aware of police being allowed to have sexual contact with sex workers during stings and 90 percent thought that it should be illegal.
Despite the efforts of CUSP and the public support for the bill, the Alaska Dispatch News reports that the bills are mired in committee and appear to be going nowhere—and that Anchorage Democrat and State Senator Berta Gardner, the sponsor of the senate bill, has said she’s "decided to focus her efforts elsewhere."
Despite the delays, Burns and CUSP are confident that the bill will still be in play when the 2018 legislative session starts. Legislators are in a special session now discussing the budget, but regular business is over for the year.
“Now that the law enforcement community has stopped lying about the issue and there is more information on the table we expect lawmakers to act to prevent these sexual assaults,” Burns said. “Alaska has long held the shameful title of being the rape capital of the U.S. because of our rape statistics on the Uniform Crime Report, so preventing sexual assault is a strong priority here.”
How this bill plays out in Alaska may prove to be a testing ground for reform around the country, as this issue gains more attention and recognition. A New York City police officer, Michael Golden, made headlines recently when it was revealed that he allegedly paid for—and engaged in—sex acts with several sex workers while he was investigating them undercover. Golden is currently sitting for a departmental trial; if found guilty, he’ll lose his job.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks For Sharing Your Views

Bottom Ad [Post Page]