HARRISBURG — Two Pennsylvania Democratic lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that would make any sexual interactions between police and those in their custody illegal.
Current law prohibits consensual sex between corrections officers and prison inmates as well as mental health workers and patients. No similar ban exists for those arrested or detained by police officers.
The lawmakers — Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, and Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia — were joined by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner at a press conference Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda. The group of officials argued that current law leaves room for police, probation and parole officers to argue in court that the interaction was consensual, which the officials said is not possible because of the power imbalance between an officer and a person in custody. Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster city, is also a co-sponsor on the House legislation.
This legislation comes at a time where officers across the state, including in Lancaster County, have been accused of using their positions of power to force those in their custody to engage in a sexual act with them.
A Lancaster woman last month filed a federal lawsuit accusing a city police detective of sexually assaulting her, putting his hands up her shirt and groping her breasts "on the pretext" of searching for drugs during a 2017 traffic stop.
Cases like those in Lancaster County go against what police officers are set out to do, Muth said following the news conference.
"[A police officer's] job is to remove people from harm," she added.
A new district attorney — Heather Adams — was elected this month. She could not be immediately reached for comment on her position about the legislation. Other statewide police organizations could not be immediately reached for comment.