LANSING, MI -- Michigan is the only state in the nation where police can still legally sleep with prostitutes in the course of an investigation, says one University of Michigan professor trying to reverse it.
Bridgette Carr is a clinical professor and director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at University of Michigan Law School. This issue hit her radar when Hawaii became the second-to-last state to eliminate this exemption in 2014. The last state to still have it on the books? Michigan.
Carr explained that current law outlined that prostitution was illegal and then created an exemption for law enforcement officers in the course of an investigation.
"No one thought to take the third step and say 'but that immunity doesn't extend all the way to sexual penetration,'" Carr said.
She's given the information to legislators over the past couple years, but it hasn't gotten any traction yet. But now Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, is on board. He plans to introduce legislation to eliminate this provision as early as next week, said his legislative aide Marc Jordan.
Glenn said the bill would protect victims of human trafficking, who are sometimes forced into prostitution.
"I think it is important that Michigan make clear that we are going to protect victims of human trafficking, including from possible abuse by law enforcement," Glenn said.
Carr said that the current law "gives too much power to people who could exploit vulnerable individuals," including human trafficking victims.
Police forces don't seem to be relying on the current law for investigations.
"This is not something our officers do," said Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shannon Banner when asked whether their officers engage in this behavior during investigations.
Carr and Jordan said law enforcement officials might need to do some things, like exchange money for prostitution, in the course of an investigation. But when it comes to actually having sex during the investigation, "I think they can put forth enough evidence and do the necessary investigations and make the necessary arrests and everything else without going that far," Jordan said.
Another problem, Glenn said, was the possibility that people could be impersonating police officers and using this exemption to intimidate prostitutes or human trafficking victims. Changing this law publicly would give that impersonator less sway.
"To whatever degree it is a problem from people impersonating police officers... our intention is to remove any doubt," Glenn said.
Politically, he said this was in line with the legislature's work tackle the issue of human trafficking. He said he viewed the bill as "a no-brainer," and would be surprised to see any opposition to it crop up in the legislative process.After introduction, the bill would have to pass the full House, full Senate and be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder to become law.