The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Recommends Ending the Use of Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution (2015)

The Interim Report of The President’s

The Interim Report of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing includes a number of “action items” intended to improve relations between police and LGBTQ/HIV communities and to address LGBT/HIV related bias in law enforcement practices. One related recommendation in the 101 page report is that police stop using possession of condoms as sole evidence of intent to engage in prostitution.

The Task Force was created by executive order in December 2014 as a response to the growing number of reports of police violence and abuse, particularly affecting communities of color, ethnic minorities, immigrants and the LGBTQ community. The stated purpose of the Task Force is “to build trust between citizens and their peace officers so that all components of a community are treating one another fairly and justly and are invested in maintaining public safety in an atmosphere of mutual respect.”

The report cites a 2012 Survey of LGBTQ/HIV contact with police which found that 25 percent of respondents with any recent police contact reported at least one type of misconduct or harassment, such as being accused of an offense they did not commit, verbal assault, being arrested for an offense they did not commit, sexual harassment, physical assault, or sexual assault. More than 45 organizations endorsed a set of recommendations for curbing this harassment that were submitted to the Task Force earlier this year. Many of those recommendations have been incorporated into the Interim Report.

Police profiling of LGBTQ people, especially transgender women of color, has often led to the confiscation of condoms subsequently used in many cases as evidence that the person arrested intended to engage in illegal sex work. Reports on this police practice indicate it creates unintended negative public health fallout as sex workers and others realize that carrying condoms puts them at risk of arrest.

The report’s recommendation and “action items” specific to the condom possession issue and to interactions between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community include:

  • 2.11 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should establish search and seizure procedures related to LGBTQ and transgender populations and adopt as policy the recommendation from the President’s HIV/AIDS Task Force to cease using the possession of condoms as the sole evidence of vice. 
  • 2.12.1 ACTION ITEM: The Bureau of Justice Statistics should add questions concerning sexual harassment of and misconduct toward LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people by law enforcement officers to the Police Public Contact Survey.
  • 2.12.2 ACTION ITEM: The Centers for Disease Control should add questions concerning sexual harassment of and misconduct toward LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people by law enforcement officers to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual
  • 5.9.2 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should implement training for officers that covers policies for interactions with the LGBTQ population, including issues such as determining gender identity for arrest placement, the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, and immigrant or non-English speaking groups, as well as reinforcing policies for the prevention of sexual misconduct and harassment.

LGBTQ and HIV advocates praised the report’s recommendations to the President as, “an important first step toward addressing the epidemic of police violence and widespread and pervasive discriminatory policing practices across the country.”