Kansas lawmaker helps close loophole that allowed police to have sex with people under arrest

Cindy Holscher was shocked by a legislative loophole that allowed police officers to claim that they had consensual sex with people they had detained.

Kansas State Rep. Cindy Holscher's bill addressing police sexual impropriety became law last week

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Until last week, it was legal for police officers in Kansas to have sex with people they had detained.

But that has changed with the election of state Rep. Cindy Holscher, who introduced a bill prohibiting officers from having sex with people in their custody.

Last week, that bill became law.

Holscher spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off about the legislation. Here is some of their conversation.

Why is it necessary to have a law that prohibits police from having sex with someone who's in their custody?

Because the law that's in the books has had a loophole, so to speak. The law that we had basically said that law enforcement could not engage in sexual relations with someone in prison or in jail.

However, it did not cover cases where somebody was not in that situation — so essentially, somebody being detained by law enforcement officers.

And upon investigation, we aren't the only state that had the loophole. There are over 30 others that currently do.

The loophole is something that you understand has been exploited. There were police officers who claimed to be having consensual sex with those whom they were arresting or had detained or stopped for some reason?

And as long as they claimed it was consensual, there really wasn't anything that could be done.

And that's kind of the heart of the matter. When we're talking about a situation where we have law enforcement officers, there's a hierarchy of power.

And obviously it makes it very difficult for somebody to feel it was consensual when there are possible threats of retaliation. 

Some of the cases here in the Kansas City, Kansas area. We're talking about officers who would ask for sexual favours from minority females, and if they did not comply, would indicate they would arrest family members — their sons, their brothers, etc.

Cindy Holscher represents District 16 in the Kansas House of Representatives. (Submitted by Cindy Holscher)

I understand there was one particular case that helped inspire your bill — the case of Lamonte McIntyre. Can you tell me about that?

Cheryl Pilate, an attorney who works on wrongful conviction cases, last summer — along with Midwest Innocence Project — gained the release of Lamonte McIntyre, who was imprisoned for over 20 years for murders he didn't commit.

And after his exoneration, she mentioned to me that through their research, they found that many women had come forward indicating that a detective involved in Lamonte's case had been preying on minority women for sex, over decades.

And it's believed there were other law enforcement officers involved.

And including the mother of Lamonte McIntyre, who says that she was coerced into having sex with this officer who arrested her son?

Yes, that's correct. She is one of the alleged victims.

She has indicated that she was coerced into sexual acts and then harassed for many weeks after. And she believes that because she spurned that particular detective's advances, that he retaliated against her son.

I've also been told that if this were thoroughly delved into, it could potentially rival what we saw recently with the sexual scandal involving the Olympic gymnastics team.

And yet, I understand, there are some people who opposed your bill. What was the opposition all about?

I wouldn't necessarily say it was opposition. It was more questions about, would there be scenarios if we were talking [about] an off-duty officer?

Really what it amounted to was that some of the language just needed to be tighter in the bill. And that got addressed.

But are there any exceptions? 

This addresses detainees — people getting stopped for traffic violations, or stopped in their neighbourhoods, which really addresses the problem brought up in the Lamonte McIntyre case. 

It should really close the loophole as far as what's been going on.

Do you think the other states in the U.S. will follow suit?

I certainly hope so. I'm guessing in many of them, they probably didn't realize this loophole existed.

Written by Kevin Ball and Kevin Robertson. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

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