Taking a major first step to protect public health, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) announced today that it will stop confiscating condoms as evidence of prostitution in some cases. This new policy represents a major shift in policing practices, but will still allow confiscation in many circumstances, including as evidence of promoting and trafficking. The Access to Condoms Coalition issued a statement noting that the new policy "continues to send a message that it is unsafe to carry condoms."
The confiscation of condoms as evidence has been strongly criticized as a form of police misconduct and harassment, closely linked to profiling and stop-and-frisk, that runs counter to public health efforts to stem the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Police reliance on health measures as evidence of wrongdoing illustrates the importance of coordinating public health strategies and programs across city agencies, particularly considering that New York City spends more than a million dollars a year to distribute free condoms. In June 2013, CHLP presented testimony on the public health consequences of condom confiscation and criminalization before the City Council’s Committees on Civil Rights and Immigration.
NYPD’s announcement comes just days after the release of a new report on LGBT/HIV criminal justice issues, A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV, co-authored by The Center for HIV Law and Policy. The report features an extensive discussion of the legal and policy problems associated with condom confiscation. The new NYPD policy also follows announcements by prosecutors in several jurisdictions, including Brooklyn and Nassau County in New York and the City of San Francisco, that they would no longer allow condoms to be used as evidence of prostitution.
Additional information concerning condom confiscation is available at www.nocondomsasevidence.org