A Pierce County Council committee Tuesday recommended making it illegal for suspected prostitutes and their customers to attempt to detect undercover officers.
The proposal, which moves onto the full council in about a month, is the same change 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 enforce prostitution that moves between the city and the unincorporated 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.
Lakewood’s law was in response to prostitutes asking undercover officers, “Are you a cop?” and 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 — which under other circumstances would be lewd conduct or a sexual assault — in order to enforce the law.”
Pastor said some of the language in the measure could be revised, but he didn’t say specifically how.
“With a few tweaks on the part of my staff suggesting some considerations which would help both operationally and legally, I would very much like this to go forward,” he said.
When asked by The News Tribune, Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said neither he nor Pastor know of an instance where Sheriff’s Department employees have touched someone sexually or allowed themselves to be touched sexually in order to make a prostitution arrest. The department doesn’t permit such touching, Troyer said.