Cops usually can’t break the law, even when they’re undercover, but police departments in Hawaii recently lobbied state lawmakers to carve out an exception to what is a pretty good rule. Last week, when the state legislature was considering amending an anti-prostitution law to prohibit undercover officers from having penetrative sex with prostitutes, the police were like, “Actually, we need the flexibility to have full-on intercourse or we can’t do our jobs properly. Third base doesn’t cut it.”
Hawaii’s House passed the bill, thereby saying “you can have sex with prostitutes if youreally need to,” but, understandably, a week’s worth of headlines like “Hawaiian Police Want to Have Sex with Prostitutes Real Bad” and “Haha Dude Wasn’t This Exact Thing in The Wire?” caused legislators to have second thoughts about the rule now that it’s hit the state Senate.
Sex trafficking victims’ advocacy groups are horrified by the prospect of the cops having sex with people who are being forced to perform these acts, and some former sex workersdispute the frequency of “cop checks,” in which suspicious prostitutes start performing sex acts to determine whether their john is really an undercover officer. But Honolulu cop Jerry Inouye argued to the state House judiciary committee that the police need this statue in place just so that pimps and sex workers don’t know cops are barred from sleeping with prostitutes while on duty. The Honolulu Police Department’s written statement likewise pleaded that not letting cops engage in full-on sex would be “preventing officers from enforcing prostitution laws.”
On the other hand, technically just agreeing to participate in a sex act for money counts as prostitution in the state of Hawaii. It seems like it would be easy for cops to bring someone in without having to, y’know, do it. And, according to the Washington Post, prostitution—a petty misdemeanor—made up a whopping 0.7 percent of the arrests in Honolulu in 2012. It doesn’t seem like a priority for their officers, so why exactly is this right to unrestricted sexy time with sex workers so important? And why does the rest of America seem to be doing fine without such a law?
It’s almost as if Hawaii cops just really, really want to believe that having sex with a woman, then arresting the woman for accepting payment, is a vital part of their jobs.
Now on to the rest of the week’s bad cops:
–On Friday, the city of Oakland, California, agreed to pay $4.5 million dollars to Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who suffered a skull fracture and a traumatic brain injury during an Occupy Oakland protest on October 25, 2011. Olsen was hit in the head by a beanbag round fired by police, and Officer Robert Roche threw a tear-gas canister at a group who rushed to aid him as he lay on the ground. Olsen was unable to speak for some time after the incident, and he says he still has memory loss. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Roche has been involved in three fatal shootings in his career, and he is currently fighting agaist the city’s effort to fire him over the Olsen incident. The city paid out $1.17 million to a dozen other protesters who said police engaged in excessive force that same day.
–On December 6, 23-year-old Cameron Redus was fatally shot after drunk-driving home to his apartment in San Antonio, Texas. The shooter was Christopher Carter, a campus police officer at the University of the Incarnate Word, where Redus was enrolled. Redus—who had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit and was driving erratically—was reported by witnesses to have sarcastically said, “Oh, you’re gonna shoot me?” moments before Carter did so five times in the left eye, the upper chest, the back, the left elbow, and the right hip.An autopsy confirmed this week that the back shot, which was fired at extremely close range, killed the student. Carter was wearing a microphone on his uniform, which recorded Carter telling Redus to put his hands behind his back 14 times, and to stop resisting 56 times. Carter also said that Redus hit him with his own baton. Carter got his baton back, then shot Redus when he charged at him, but the dashcam in Carter’s cruiser didn’t record the encounter, so it’s difficult to sort out what happened. Carter remains on administrative leave, and some questions have yet to be answered, namely: Why do campus cops need guns again?
–According to the Associated Press, police may be using a cellphone tracking device called a Stingray a lot more often than anyone realizes. The Stingray is a small gizmo that tricks phones into thinking it’s a cell tower, allowing police to intercept information from phones. That’s all I can tell you. How exactly it works, which departments have used it, and how often, is mostly a giant question mark, because cops are not interested in spilling that secret. Neither is the Stingray’s manufacturer, Harris Corp., which signs private contracts with police departments. We don’t even know what rules the cops follow when they use these things, which is arguably a problem.
–On February 22, four National Forest Service officers (reportedly clad in SWAT gear)arrived at a ski resort in Taos, New Mexico, to issue citations for marijuana use, reckless driving, and even cracked windshields. The so-called “saturation patrol” even searched cars and people, making many uncomfortable in the name of “safety.” Saturation patrols arenormally deployed to areas known for drinking or drug use—the object is ostensibly to prevent impaired driving, though obviously the tactic can be pretty invasive in many cases. Now former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson (who ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2012) is full of righteous anger about the incident—he even used the term “jackbooted thugs” in an interview with a local TV station. The Forest Service says it is reviewing the procedure and making sure everything was proper. I’m sure everything was in accordance with various guidelines—which doesn’t mean those guidelines shouldn’t change.
–Back in May of 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit asking for Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) data from the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD. These two agencies have been jealously guarding most of the the details of their data collection operation, including whom they share data with and exactly what a week’s worth of it looks like. Scanning license plates seems like a relatively minor thing for the police to do, but in the words of an EFF lawyer, it allows the police to track “where you work and live, what doctor you go to, which religious services you attend, and who your friends are.”In response to the lawsuit, lawyers representing the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD filed a brief that argued all of the data is “investigatory” in nature, meaning it is exempt from the relevant public records statute—that’s the case even when the data in question is for license plates of ordinary people who haven’t been accused of any crime. The lawsuit is ongoing, with EFF filing a response brief on March 14, which disputed the law enforcement organizations’ definition of “investigatory.”
–Our Good Cop of the Week is the sheriff’s deputy in Broome County, New York, who saved a woman from a heroin overdose with the much-touted wonder drug naloxone. On Thursday, March 20, Sergeant Thomas Williams took a call from a woman who said her daughter was unconscious. When he arrived at the home, Williams administered the drug, and then took the woman to the hospital. Our other Good Cop of the Week is Williams’s boss, Sheriff David Harder, who just a month ago announced that all his deputies would begin carrying the drug in order to up the chances of survival for people who overdose. That’s how you save lives, Sheriff. Good job.