New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton announced on May 12 that the police department would stop confiscating unused condoms from suspected sex workers for use as evidence of prostitution.
Bratton said, "The NYPD heard from community health advocates and took a serious look at making changes to our current policy as it relates to our broader public safety mission."
The NYPD said condoms could still be confiscated for use as evidence in sex-trafficking crimes.
Lambda Legal, a civil liberties group, said called the announcement a great step in the right direction. Lambda and other civil rights groups have argued that the police practice has undermined efforts to protect people against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
But Lambda pressed for further action, writing to Bratton: “We urge Commissioner Bratton to remove all uses of condoms as evidence of sex work in any setting — including trafficking — because using condoms as evidence can motivate human traffickers to keep the people they traffick from using condoms at all.”
Lambda also has sought reform in Albany, writing recently to the New York Senate: “Using condoms as evidence of criminal conduct further exposes communities that have historically been both hard-hit by HIV and subjected to intense police scrutiny. The practice disproportionately affects transgender women, who experience such a high rate of false targeting by police as sex workers in New York City that it was the subject of a 2005 campaign by Amnesty International.”