According to HuffPost, in all 50 states it is currently legal for police officers to engage in “sexual contact” with sex workers who are under investigation. And now in Alaska, where sex workers report they are frequent targets of sexual abuse at the hands of the police, a bill is being introduced that could eliminate the loophole that makes sexual contact between police and suspects possible.
A story from HuffPost reports on the ways in which officers use this legal loophole to intimidate sex workers into having non-penetrative sex with them. In many stories a sex worker will meet up with someone they believe to be a client and masturbate or engage in oral sex with them before cops come in to arrest her.
In one story an escort named Rachel had sex “to completion” with an officer and afterwards he insisted she take her cash payment. He tried to arrest her but because she didn’t take the money yet Rachel then told the cop she had done it for fun, to which he said he was “proud of her.” “I felt like I was raped,” she told the publication. “I feel like he used his badge as a way to have sex with me.”
When faced with the House Bill 112, which was introduced by Representative Matt Claman (D-Alaska), Alaska cops defended their right to engage in sexual contact with suspects. They allege that sexual contact (touching a breast, allowing a suspect to put a condom on a cop pretending to be a client) is crucial because it convinces sex workers that officers are just clients at first.
But sex worker advocacy groups like CUSP, Community United for Safety and Protection, believe that the allowance of sexual contact between cops and suspects further criminalizes members of the sex work industry. While members of Alaska’s department of law believe this type of conduct helps arrest “people who people who traffic women and children,” the HuffPost report notes that during Operation Cross Country no children were arrested in Anchorage and only three “pimps” were arrested.
For now the House Bill 112 is trapped in “legislative purgatory” after being criticized by the Anchorage Police Department and the Attorney General’s office. But the issue of police officers abusing their power to have sex with sex workers is not limited to Alaska, with reports of women in many states across the country being arrested for having sex with officers even when they are minors. And as of right now no state in the country has a bill that would make sexual contact between officers and sex workers under investigation illegal as comprehensive as Alaska’s HB 112.