NYPD to Stop Using Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution

May 13, 2014 | Andy Cush

Yesterday, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that the NYPD will stop using condoms as evidence for prostitution arrests, a change advocates have been pushing for years. The policy shift will allow cops to continue using condoms as evidence in sex trafficking cases.

“This is a reasonable approach to targeting the most at-risk community as it relates to safer sex practices and continuing to build strong cases against the vast criminal enterprise associated with prostitution,” Bratton said in a statement.

However, isn’t clear whether the new rules will be enough to alleviate the fear of persecution for carrying protection. An advocacy group called Access to Condoms Coalition issued a statement yesterday that tentatively praises the department’s decision and calls for wider-ranging reforms:

The policy announced by Commissioner Bratton today barring confiscation of condoms as arrest evidence in prostitution, prostitution in a school zone, and loitering for the purposes of prostitution cases represents a welcome and important step in the direction of protecting the public health and reproductive rights of New Yorkers. Unfortunately, it does not go far enough, and creates a loophole big enough to drive a truck through:  police can still continue to use the possession of condoms to justify an arrest, confiscate condoms from sex workers and survivors as “investigatory evidence” where promoting or trafficking is suspected, and confiscate condoms as evidence in promoting and trafficking cases.

As long as possession or presence of condoms on the premises of a business can be used as evidence of intent to engage in any prostitution-related offense, including over thirteen more serious New York Penal Law offenses and civil proceedings not covered by this policy, we are concerned that cops will continue to take them out of the hands of people who are the most vulnerable to exploitation – youth and trafficking victims. We are also concerned that the people who are exploiting them will deny access to condoms in the hopes of avoiding prosecution, and that businesses and individuals will be discouraged from carrying and distributing them. Also, we are concerned that under this policy, police can still use the fact that a sex worker has condoms in their possession as a basis for arrest for prostitution, even if they don’t physically voucher them as evidence. This continues to send a message that it is unsafe to carry condoms.

Read the coalition’s full statement here.

(Photo: @Jeremy Pawlowski)