Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced Wednesday that his department will immediately stop arresting children on prostitution charges.
"They are child victims and survivors of rape," McDonnell wrote in a letter to his employees. "We must remember that children cannot consent to sex under any circumstance."
Changing the way such children are viewed, from suspect to victim, falls in tandem with a national trend in recent years and marks a "major shift from where all of us in policing had been throughout history," McDonnell said during a news conference Wednesday.
But McDonnell and other officials acknowledged that they will need to press for changes in the law and how services are delivered to bring an end to the Catch-22 that law enforcement and judges currently face. In too many cases, officials say, they must use prostitution laws and arrest victims in order to intervene in child sex-trafficking cases because there is no other way to access the county’s best intervention services provided by the Probation Department, the Los Angeles Times reports.