On June 21st, a woman was sentenced to 2 years of ARD (Alternative Rehabilitation Disposition) after “masturbating [an undercover policeman] for several minutes ” in Lancaster County. The criminal complaint alleged that the woman promoted prostitution by managing and supervising the Angel Day Spa where the undercover officer received manual stimulation while on the clock. The investigation took place after several alleged complaints were lodged from citizens concerned about prostitution occurring at the business.
A recently published investigative piece by the York Daily Record detailed criminal cases across the Commonwealth where officers engaged in sexual contact with suspects to effectuate prostitution arrests. The publication found a devastating lack of formal or uniform policies and procedures for undergoing prostitution investigations. In Pennsylvania, there is no law against an officer having sex while on duty. This is not unusual, as loopholes in many state’s laws do not expressly forbid sexual contact between police officers and suspects or persons in their custody.
Throughout recent years, states around the country have introduced legislation to prevent this type of behavior. Kansas instituted a law 2018 that, “bans sexual relations during the course of a traffic stop, custodial interrogation, an interview in connection with an investigation, or while the law enforcement officer has such person detained.” New York unsuccessfully tried to pass a similar law in 2018, following the alleged rape of an 18-year-old girl in police custody. In 2017, Michigan eliminated an immunity provided to police officers who engaged in sexual contacted with prostituted persons while on duty. When lawmakers in Hawaii sought to introduce legislation in 2014 to end a similar immunity, police in the state fought fervently to save the law because “suspects are too familiar with how far undercover cops can and can’t go during investigations”.
The #MeToo Movement has brought national attention to how power imbalances can allow sexual misconduct and harassment to flourish. Police officers engaging in sexual contact with persons they can or do arrest is the epitome of exploiting a power imbalance. The CSE Institute strongly condemns the actions of the police officer in this case, and any officer who engages in sexual activity with a suspect. Regardless of what state legal protections are in place, police officers should not be committing the crime of buying sex to accuse someone else of committing the crime of selling sex.
All viewed expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.