Sex Work

Alaska Cops Fight for the Right to Sexually Exploit Prostitution Suspects

New laws are under debate, but the practice is more common than you think.


Katarzyna Bialasiewicz | Dreamstime

Once again, cops are arguing that they need to be allowed to have sex with suspects in order to investigate prostitution allegations. And once again, lawmakers and journalists are acting like exploitation and assault of sex workers by law enforcement is a rare occurrence, rather than a national epidemic.

Most people would agree that the deception, the power differential, and the subsequent arrest of sex workers make such contact utterly unacceptable, even if they don't think that it rises to the level of rape. Yet the behavior is common enough to bring police unions to its defense on a regular basis.

This month the fight is in Alaska, where the Anchorage Police Department is opposing two bills that would criminalize "sexual contact" with suspected sex workers. House Bill 112 states, in part, "An offender commits the crime of sexual assault in the third degree if the offender…while acting as a peace officer in the state, engages in sexual penetration with a person with reckless disregard that the person is…the victim, witness, or perpetrator of a crime under investigation by the offender." Deputy Chief Sean Case told the Alaska Dispatch News that the freedom to engage in sexual behavior with people under investigation is vital to doing police work. That's because sex workers can engage in "cop-checking," he says—vetting possible clients by asking them break laws that restrict law enforcement. A suspect might ask him to touch her breast, he explained. "If we make that act (of touching) a misdemeanor we have absolutely no way of getting involved in that type of arrest."

In the same interview, however, Case claimed that police "are not out there to go out and find that street prostitute….What we're interested in now is the trafficking." In other words, Anchorage police are arguing that they must be allowed to molest trafficking victims in order to do their jobs.

The Alaska bills were introduced through the efforts of sex worker activists, who well know that in every place where sex work is criminalized or even semi-criminalized (and that includes all 50 American states) police and/or their paid informants routinely take sexual liberties ranging from groping to full intercourse with women they're "investigating." Sometimes they claim this is necessary for "gathering evidence" or (as in the Anchorage excuse above) part of the process of arresting the sex workers. Other times the activity somehow doesn't make it into police reports at all. (Imagine that!) This is exactly why Alaskan activists want the contact prohibited.

Coverage of specific stories on this topic rarely make reference to the prevailing pattern, even when there are other recent examples. Virtually none of the coverage of the Alaska story mentions that just last month a Michigan law that gave cops immunity from prosecution for penetrative sex with people under investigation for prostitution is finally being challenged.

Unlike the Alaska bills, the Michigan state Senate Bill 275 doesn't define this exploitation as a form of sexual assault; it merely allows the offending cop to be charged with "prostitution-related offenses" if the sex worker reports that "the officer engaged in sexual penetration while in the course of his or her duties," prior to arresting her (apparently, groping or other non-penetrative sexual activity are are still allowed).

In this respect, Michigan's status quo closely resembles one in Hawaii which scandalized reporters and readers three years ago. The legislature tried to repeal a 1970s-era immunity clause for cops engage in prostitution investigations. The police union argued vociferously against the reform, just as they are doing now in Alaska, before eventually dropping their opposition in the face of a tide of popular condemnation. Yet despite that resemblance, most treatments of the Alaskan law don't bother to mention the Hawaiian one.

Every time reformers get a toehold, coverage tends to treat a state's policy or practice as an standalone case. Even when it isn't—as in this report on a similar informal policy in Fort Smith, Arkansas—reporters routinely accept the word of police department mouthpieces that such policies are both unusual and well-intentioned, and that most cops would never think of using them for nefarious purposes because sex workers are exploited "victims" that they're trying to "rescue."

These are not isolated incidents. In August 2015, judges threw out three prostitution cases in Minneapolis because the cops "went too far," arousing the ire of the city's (female) chief public defender. In April 2013, a Pittsburgh-area sex worker's defense attorney tried to get her case dismissed because the cop had waited until the woman had finished giving him a blow job before arresting her; police departments in the Pittsburgh area have a long history of this kind of misbehavior, such as the 2006 case in which state troopers paid an informant to pay for sex at a massage parlor four times before busting anyone (the judge dismissed the case, calling the scheme "sophomoric"). In Pennsylvania, as in Florida and Indiana, police departments actively defend cops caught in this practice, arguing that such tactics are necessary because sex workers are "sophisticated" (while simultaneously being passive "sex slaves," of course).

One of the primary reasons sex work was decriminalized in New South Wales, Australia in 1995 was to eliminate this particular flavor of police corruption. But while Australian lawmakers understood that the way to eliminate the problem was to take away cops' power over sex workers, no American state has yet taken any but the most hesitant and largely symbolic steps in the direction of true decriminalization. And meanwhile, police and their unions continue to unabashedly protest the loss of the option to sexually exploit suspects without repercussions.

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  1. “…the cop had waited until the woman had finished giving him a blow job before arresting her”.
    This sucks that police are abusing their power.

    1. We have to abuse and degrade the sex slave further in order to prevent them from being abused and degraded.

      I don’t hate cops. I hate authoritarian assholes, especially those who demand they have exemption law. Sadly the Venn diagram isn’t pretty.

      1. exemption from law

        1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

          This is what I do…

    2. Yeah, it really blows.

  2. Jesus, Reason. It’s like you don’t want Dunphy et al to be able to get laid at all.

  3. The law only restricts ‘penetration’ and these cops are fighting this. Dude, I’m not happy and you know what happens when I get angry. Nothing really.

    1. Hitler?

      1. Yeah about that, he asked for forgiveness right before he died so I mean what was I supposed to do? He’s chilling up here with me drinking Miami Vices. He says hello and sorry about all that stuff. You know how it is when you feel strongly about something. You get a little carried away.

    2. …ou know what happens when I get angry. Nothing really.

      There are times when I kind of miss the “fire and brimstone, Old Testament” God. What happened to you, man? Did you mellow out in your old age? Or did having a son change you and make you more patient or something? I don’t get it, there’s so many people that could use a good old fashioned smiting and yet, crickets.

      1. Harsh living = harsh justice

        Easy living = easy justice

  4. Of course cops will oppose these kinds of laws. They are accustomed to doing anything they want. Absolutely anything. Assault, robbery, rape, murder… it’s all just another day if you’re a cop. They don’t follow the law. They don’t even enforce it. Their job is to make people do what they want. That includes sex. Laws like this go against the very nature of policing in this country. The law doesn’t apply to them. They do what they want.

    1. Sounds familiar. Have you written this 10,000 times before?

      1. Doesn’t make it any less true.

        1. And for Dan to cast that stone. Self awareness is lacking this morning.

          1. I pity Dan. I truly do. He is a certified idiot who fancies himself to be clever. Too stupid to understand that he is stupid. His posts make me cringe.

      2. And he’ll have to write it 10,000 more times (at least) because all too many people believe that the government must have unlimited power.

  5. Dudes, you know the female cops pretending to be prostitutes never find it necessary to suck a dick to build a case. It’s unbelievable what I’ve allowed you people to get away with.

    1. So do something about it.

      1. I’ve got a very, extremely, the greatest mysterious plan. You would love it.

        1. Sorry, but there are times I can’t help but suspect Your ineffable Plan is just effed.

    2. We need more female cops sucking dicks. Because equality.

      1. I can just see the John being brought into the jail…

        “Totally worth it! She swallowed!”

  6. I’m sure their wives are thrilled by their exuberance to fight for their “right” to bone prostitutes.

    1. It’s not even a right, it’s an obligation! They need to exploit these prostitutes in order to keep them from being exploited by criminals.

    2. As if they tell their wives. They probably bring home a nice case of VD, blame her, and use it as an excuse to rough her up. Again. What is she going to do when he beats her up, call the cops?

      1. Have you had the pleasure of viewing Faraah Fawcett in ‘The Burning Bed’?

  7. Sex occurring or not, I still don’t understand how this entrapment is allowed. Either a cop is soliciting sex from a prostitute in order to catch a prostitute (committing a crime) or the cop is undercover as a prostitute soliciting sex for money (committing a crime) in order to catch people soliciting prostitutes. Nevermind that sex-work is just that, work, trading a service for money. It is a voluntary transaction between/among consenting parties and should not be illegal. Some “free” country we have…

    1. You forget one key fact, which is that women don’t have agency so therefore they can not consent to sex. Progressivism is the new Puritanism. This is how every prostitute is considered a sex trafficking victim until some magic line is crossed and then suddenly they themselves are a sex trafficker.

      But lets not pretend that many prostitutes are ‘kept women’ by pimps, or are actual victims of sex trafficking, either. Of course, making it legal would give them legal recourse against those bad actors but that is continually ignored by everyone as well.

      Making ‘the worlds oldest profession’ illegal was never going to go well. For some reason, in abortion people say ‘well it’s going to happen anyway, legal or not’ and then fight like hell to make it legal. In the case of prostitution, that whole argument somehow doesn’t apply. That’s before we even get into the ‘it’s my body, you can’t tell me what to do with it’ argument.

  8. “no American state has yet taken any but the most hesitant and largely symbolic steps in the direction of true decriminalization”

    Is the author aware that Nevada is a state?

    1. Nevada’s steps may be more than symbolic, but they’re still pretty partial. Keep in mind that the state law allowing local-option prostitution specifically (if indirectly) excepts Clark county, and thus Las Vegas. Somehow, I suspect the number of still-criminalized prostitutes in Vegas probably exceeds the number of legal prostitutes in the rest of the state.

  9. Breaking the law to enforce a law,just like the war on drugs,.

    1. With the War on Drugs, they even get to violate the Constitution.

      1. And probably the Magna Carta.

  10. Does it occur to Deputy Chief Case that this type of tactic is ethically sketchy to begin with and maybe you should not engage in it in the first place?

    1. That would imply that police have ethics.

    2. Mickey, has it occurred to you that Deputy Chief Case likes to keep the option open to blow his load in a sex worker at will with no repercussions?

  11. Half the reason cops go into vice is so they can bang the hookers. The other half of the reason is so they can pocket some of the drugs they confiscate. Put a stop to either one and their ability to recruit officers to the vice squad would be severely diminished.

    1. Put a stop to both and we don’t even need to pay taxes to fund a vice squad anymore.

  12. Other times the activity somehow doesn’t make it into police reports at all.

    Of course, if the law passes this is probably what will end up happening. The cops will keep on fucking the hookers but just not report it. Then, when the hooker claims the cop made “sexual contact,” we all know who’s story is more likely to be believed.

    1. Sadly, I’m pretty sure you’re correct on that one. Someone above made a lucid comment that somehow female officers don’t end up needing to have sex with suspects to bust them, I’m not sure why it’s different for male cops. Maybe there’s a good reason, but one doesn’t spring to mind.

      1. DNA evidence. His in her.

      2. You average “John” doesn’t know what things to avoid saying to give the female cop enough to be able to make an arrest stick, while the female prostitutes know exactly what not to say, thus further actions are required to ensure the arrest is legit.
        I agree that prostitution shouldn’t be illegal, but laws are passed and mostly at the urging of the women in society. They are not passed by the cops, who are told they must arrest these people and do what they can to get convictions.
        What this “writer” conveys is a distorted picture. I can assure you that your average cop wants nothing to do, sexually, with your average prostitute. There are, of course, exceptions.

        1. “your average cop wants nothing to do, sexually, with your average prostitute”… Strange that the police unions are fighting so hard to preserve the right to have sex with prostitutes (at taxpayers’ expense), isn’t it?

  13. We had to fuck the sex slaves, in order to save them.

    1. I thought of this too! One of the best episodes, with Bitters at his very best, also.

      1. Butters, dammit

        1. I thought you were referring to Butter’s infrequently seen older brother.

  14. I find it odd that they don’t need to sell crack to track down drug dealers or murder folks to track down killers.

    But fucking hookers makes total sense to track down traffickers, apparently.

    Sad part is, most cops are good and decent, but they don’t want to do shit to the cops that are dramatically less than good and decent and it makes all of them look like sleazeballs.

    1. but they don’t want to do shit to the cops that are dramatically less than good and decent

      There are no good and decent cops. Those are the ones who get fired for ratting out on their brothers or for not murdering someone for failure to obey.

    2. Yeah, the ‘good ones’ do t seem to realize that their little omert? comes at the expense of the public. Cops aren’t supposed to just be another gang. We need more Serpicos, not fewer.

    3. find it odd that they don’t need to sell crack to track down drug dealers or murder folks to track down killers.

      Wait, you’re saying they don’t do that?

      1. You and I know the answer for the first half of that question, which — of course — leads inevitably to SOMEONE committing murder. The war on drugs needs to end NOW, and the war on prostitution needed to end about one hundred years ago.

        1. We had a chance then, before the women got the vote. Now it will be impossible to legalize prostitution.

  15. I thought this was just one of the perks of the job. We get screwed by politicians all the time. The police just want to get in on it.

  16. Most people would agree that the deception, the power differential, and the subsequent arrest of sex workers make such contact utterly unacceptable, even if they don’t think that it rises to the level of rape.

    I suspect most people don’t give it any thought and don’t care.

  17. The cops are nobility. They believe they’re nobility, and too many non-cops believe it as well. And as members of the nobility, they want the 21st century equivalent of droit du seigneur.

    There are two ways this can end: Either the Constitutional prohibition on US titles of nobility can be enforced, or… a la lanterne!

  18. RECENT video showing Alaskan chief justifying why cops shouldn’t be criminalized for sexual contact with people they are investigating followed by first hand experiences from Alaskan sex workers and a sex trafficking victim

  19. The Alaskan sex workers who weren’t named in this article who have invested years trying to change the situation in Alaska, who pushed for the introduction of the bill to criminalize sexual contact by cops during investigations are Maxine Doogan and Terra Burns who jointly founded CUSP community united for safety and protection.

  20. In the field of opportunity it’s plowing time again. – Neil Young

  21. If it illegal for Charlie Brown on the street to have sex with a prostitue, then it MUST be illegal for John Law to do the same. HOW can anyone justify cops being “allowed” to engage in sex with suspects when they are “performing law enforcement duties”? And why is prositution illegal anyway? Someone wants to do it, fine. Find someone willing, and get on with it. Criminalising such behaviour is not why we pay tje big Bux for those costly law enforcement people. WHO is the victim when Susie and Peter agree to have sex, even if for pay? And at what point does “gifts” constitute “pay”? Dinner and a movie? Fifty dollar dinner and box seats at the best flicker house in town? A Big Mac and a dollar theatre seat? How bout a guy on a date with a co-worker providing dinner and a flick, then she invites him home with her?

    Spend time and our tax money on crimes that have VICTIMS. How many armed robberies are there in the US daily? How about car jackings? Credit card theft? Too busy to chase down leads for a burglary because the cops are too busy chasing down streetwalkers to see if then can “get a little”?

  22. Maggie, I don’t have any snarky jokes. Just want to say thank you for the incredible work you do.

  23. In Alaska’s defense, sometimes the girl does want you to touch her breast to prove you aren’t police. However, this seems to be as foolproof a plan as thinking anal sex can’t get you pregnant.

    And on that note…enjoy!

  24. “even if they don’t think that it rises to the level of rape”

    Since when is the consensual exchange of sex for money considered rape?

    It’d probably be a lot more useful to legalize prostitution. That way the cops could simply pay for their own blow jobs and leave the rest of us out of this.

    1. AND, the women could step out of the shadows. They could become nice little tax paying drones like the rest of us. :p

      1. One thing Ive always wondered: IF prostitution were legal, and lets say there is some hooker out there with a heart of gold and refuses to service married johns, could she be sued under anti-discrimination grounds or forced by the state to have non-consensual sex i.e. rape?

  25. Lets just hold on there partner,

    if you take away the cops ability to get coerced sex and steal you stuff why would anybody want to be a cop?

  26. Just one more item in the long list of undocumented “perks” enjoyed by law enforcement. Stopping these abuses of power is a prerequisite to reform. Doesn’t look like that is going to happen anytime soon. Know the law. Report any leo abuses you see. Your cell phone is your best defense against bad cops. Record every encounter.

  27. Lifetime parole-probation, lifetime shackles, lifetime reporting and contact with police, lifetime restrictions of all sorts, civil commitment, travel bans, no right to bear arms to protect ourselves and our families, it’s got to me end it..

    It’s fast, easy, and secure….If the government can take away rights with impunity no one is safe..

  28. As outrageous as police brutality is more outrageous is most of the media ignoring all this legal crime and oppression. Right now they’re crazy as hell about letting feminine men be allowed into women’s bathrooms, the extinction of polar bears, celebrity news and donald duck above all. And then there’s a link right below this comment window asking “Why support Reason?” Maybe because they seem to be the single one media doing its job.

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