NEW YORK - The New York Police Department will no longer confiscate unused condoms from suspected sex workers to be used as evidence of prostitution, ending a long-standing practice that had been criticized by civil-rights groups for undermining efforts to combat AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
Under the new policy announced Monday, officers may continue to seize condoms as evidence in sex-trafficking and promotion-of-prostitution cases, but they will not use them in support of prostitution cases.
Critics had said the previous policy amounted to police harassment and noted that New York spends more than $1 million a year to distribute free condoms.
"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," Police Commissioner William Bratton said in announcing the new policy.
For decades, police in New York and elsewhere had confiscated condoms from sex work suspects ostensibly for them to be used as evidence in criminal trials, even though the overwhelming majority of prostitution cases never go to trial.
"A policy that inhibits people from safe sex is a mistake and dangerous," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday at an unrelated event in Queens. "And there are a number of ways you can go about putting together evidence" without condoms, he said.