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Bill targeting sex crimes by police goes to House

FRANKFORT - Legislation addressing sexual offenses committed by police officers while on duty passed the Kentucky Senate today by a 35-0 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 52, would amend third-degree rape, third-degree sodomy and second-degree sexual abuse statutes so law enforcement officers could be charged with those crimes if they engage in sexual acts with a person under investigation, in custody or under arrest. A loophole in the current statutes excludes law enforcement officials, according to testimony from a committee hearing on the bill earlier this month.

"This bill protects ordinary people," said Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, who carried the bill on the floor. "It protects ordinary people from those in a position of power who seek to abuse that power."

Yates, a lawyer by trade, added that he has represented people in civil court who have been sexually exploited by police officers. He said SB 52 would help root out bad police officers in the future.

SB 52 was amended on the floor to clarify that it would relate to the conduct of an officer in their official capacity.

"That's so they are not prohibited from having a social relationship with someone ... as long as they are not acting in their official capacity," said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton. "That's what this bill is about. It goes to the very protections (Yates) was speaking about in a power differential when that relationship of authority is present. That is what this is about."

Westerfield was a primary sponsor of SB 52 along with Sen. Denis Harper Angel, D-Louisville.

SB 52 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

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