I’m just starting to dig into this new report from the Sex Workers’ Project and the PROS Network: Public Health Crisis: The Impact of Using Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution in New York City. They’re launching it today in Albany, along with sex workers and advocates from all over New York, as part of a day of lobbying for a bill that would stop cops from searching people they’ve profiled as prostitutes in order to find condoms and make what they (and the courts, unfortunately) believe is a stronger case against them. Condoms-as-evidence is NYPD’s own sexed-up form of stop-and-frisk. As a result, close to half of the sex workers surveyed for this report say they have had condoms taken from them by cops, and close to half have stopped carrying condoms altogether, for fear of getting charged for the crime of protecting their own health.
If you do like I did and flip to the back of this report, you can find your own evidence in a frightful little narrative (really very dream-of-the-1890’s) drawn from court records and sworn cop statements.
There’s quite a few cases supported with direct cop testimony. Here’s just one, involving Officer Thomas V. Hill (shield number 15783), who reported this as cause to stop and cite one woman:
(The year, by his own hand, was 2011.)
After stopping this woman for being “dressed in (describe clothing) a long black wig, tight short jean shorts, tight red shirt” Thomas sought to charge her with “loitering for prostitution.”
What’s the basis of your conclusion, officer (their handy pre-printed form asks)?
So you know: here’s what cops are looking for when they want to profile a woman (and let’s be real, in New York and around the country, cops are actively profiling not all women, but women of color and transgender women in particular) as a prostitute, and slap her with a charge that could get her kicked out of her apartment, cost her current and future employment, sic the state on her to take her kids…
I would love a similar check sheet for cops: do you love staring at women? Rifling through their private belongings? Roughing them up? Strip searching them? At best, that’s a fantasy they ought to be paying for, rather than having us subsidize, but you know. Cops are as perved-out on patriarchal bullshit as everyone else. It’s just that they just get paid to slutshame some of the most vulnerable people in the city straight to prison.
I guess what I am saying is, look out for cops loitering with intent to solicit you to partake in a non-consensual, possibly unconstitutional search-and-seizure roleplay.
And thank our stars for the people who want to hold them to account for that.
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