Undercover police officers in Michigan will no longer be able to have sex with prostitutes who they’re investigating, under a new law that was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week.
Senate Bill 275 aims to amend the Michigan Penal Code to make it possible for police officers to be prosecuted for prostitution-related offences, “if the officer engaged in sexual penetration while in the course of his or her duties.”
Michigan police currently enjoy immunity from prosecution for having sex with prostitutes on the clock, something that doesn’t sit well with Republican Sen. Judy Emmons, who sponsored the bill.
Emmons told the Detroit Free Press that while she doesn’t believe undercover police necessarily exploit their position, it’s important that the law be changed to fall in line with broader efforts to combat human trafficking.
She added that Michigan is the only state in the U.S. that still has this law in its books.
“I don’t know how anyone could come out and argue against this,” she told the Detroit Free Press.
This begs the question: why did Michigan have such a law in its books in the first place?
Bridgette Carr, director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, told Michigan Radio in February that the law was set up that way simply to give police the power to investigate with immunity, and that “no one thought to go back and carve out a prohibition against sexual intercourse.”
Carr said it wasn’t unheard of for people with knowledge of the exemption — police as well as people falsely impersonating police — to use it as leverage to threaten sex workers.
“It’s not rampant, but it happens. And I think it says something about us as a community that we would allow this type of exemption for law enforcement, whether it’s used very often or not,” she said.