Under Michigan law, it's legal for police to have sex with prostitutes during an undercover investigation, but state Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, introduced a bill last week that would end that exemption.
Michigan is the only state in the nation to still provide immunity from prosecution for cops who have sex with prostitutes during an investigation, said University of Michigan law professor Bridgette Carr, who works with the university's Human Trafficking clinic. It was an exemption that was provided to protect officers during sting investigations of prostitution rings.
The bill Glenn drafted with the help of the university is part of an effort in the Legislature to protect victims of human trafficking, Glenn said.
"I think it's a no-brainer. There's no widespread indication of police engaging in inappropriate behavior, but there are people who impersonate police officers who intimidate women into having sex," he said. "We would not want Michigan to be known as the only state in the nation where police could engage in sex with prostitutes or victims of human trafficking without fear of prosecution."
Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shannon Banner said it's not the kind of tactic troopers use in their investigations. And Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said, "It’s my 40th year here, and I’ve never heard of it happening here. That’s not how we train our undercover officers."
But Carr, a law professor with the U-M clinic, said it's hard to tell how widespread the practice is. "It would be really hard to keep track of because of the immunity for police," she said. "Folks with a lot of power have this immunity, and they're around people who are really vulnerable. I've been working for a number of years trying to get rid of this immunity."
The bill, HB 4355, has been assigned to the House Law and Justice Committee but hasn't been scheduled for a hearing yet.
"I can't imagine that the result will be anything other than unanimous passage in the House and Senate," Glenn said.
For more information on bills, go to www.legislature.mi.gov.
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Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michpoligal