A Pierce County Council committee Tuesday recommended making it illegal for suspected prostitutes and their customers to attempt to detect undercover officers by engaging in sexual contact before a transaction is made.
The proposal, which moves to the full council in about a month, is the same as what Tacoma adopted two years ago. Lakewood approved a similar provision in 2009.
Council members cited the need to protect law enforcement officers while making laws consistent to crack down on prostitution that moves between the city and the county.
The county’s proposal would make it illegal for someone to avoid a prostitution arrest by exposing oneself or asking another to do so, by asking to be touched sexually, or by requesting to touch or touching another sexually.
The council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee voted 5-0 to recommend the full council adopt the proposal.
The intent is to deter prostitutes from trying to root out undercover officers, such as by saying: “If you’re not a cop, touch my breast.”
“The intent of this is absolutely on the money,” Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told the committee. “We should not have to put up with either a request for or engaging in lewd conduct or a request for or engaging in a sexual assault in order to enforce the law.”
Pastor said some language in the measure could be revised, but he didn’t say how.
Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said neither he nor Pastor knows of a case where sheriff’s employees have touched someone sexually or allowed themselves to be touched sexually to make an arrest. The department doesn’t permit such touching, Troyer said.