A bill is in the works in Alaska that would ban cops from engaging in sexual contact with the sex workers they are investigating. Penetration between a sex worker and the cop investigating them is currently illegal in all 50 states, but Alaska would be the first state to ban all sexual contact. The ongoing conflict is between the cops and the sex workers. The cops say that not being able to touch the sex workers will make them unable to hide their identity as cops. The sex workers feel that having sex with someone and who then arrests them is a violating abuse of power.
Terra Burns is a founding member of Community United for Safety and Protection, an organization of a group of current and former sex workers, sex trafficking victims and allies. CUSP is working to protect sex workers who are falling victim to cops. In an interview with Glamour, Burns said, “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. Women have told me that years later they still have PTSD symptoms when they see a police car.”
Cops say that if they don't engage in sexual contact with a sex worker, they won't have grounds for an arrest. Or as Burns describes their reasoning, "“they need to be able to have sexual contact with sex trafficking victims in order to rescue them by arresting them.”
Alaska Assistant Attorney General Kaci Schroeder stated in a letter to legislators: “It is neither legal nor acceptable for a law enforcement officer to engage in sexual conduct with a person that that officer is investigating.” But with this in mind, it is clear that it is common practice for cops to engage in sexual acts with sex workers and face no charges.
The Post Gazette describes how Indianapolis police follow the “definite fondle” policy, where cops are instructed that they have to wait for the sex worker to touch them before they can make an arrest — the exact thing this bill would ban in Alaska.
Amnesty International opposed these kinds of laws, saying, “Such conduct is an abuse of authority and in some instances amounts to rape and/or entrapment.”
According to Glamour, “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.” I, like most people, thought this was already illegal, so how hard can it be to pass a bill? With the general public supporting the bill and CUSP having evidence of cops committing sexual acts with the people they are investigating with no repercussions, it seems like the bill has a very stable base. Burns will continue to fight for the bill, and she thinks that a lot of progress will be made with this bill, not only in Alaska, but across the country.
Photo Credit: Klaus, Wikimedia Commons
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