Public defender, health officials weigh in on police condom policy

From The Bay Area Reporter:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An official with the San Francisco Public Defender’s office and the city’s public health director commented this week on the San Francisco Police Department using condoms as evidence of prostitution.

Meanwhile, the international Human Rights Watch organization released a report today (Thursday, July 19) on policies in San Francisco and other cities.

Police Chief Greg Suhr issued a department-wide bulletin last week reminding staff not to confiscate unopened condoms. However, in the document, he repeated remarks he’s made previously that police may still use photographs of condoms as evidence in vice cases.

Bob Dunlap, a felony manager for the public defender’s office, said in an email this week that practice is “contrary to common sense.”

“They’re sending a mixed message,” Dunlap said. “By giving the condoms back they are encouraging sex workers to use them, but by using the fact of possession against them they are discouraging such use.”

Reports of police confiscating condoms have raised concerns about people being less likely to carry them, thereby putting people at greater risk for HIV transmission.

Among other points, Dunlap said, “It’s ironic to prosecute prostitution cases in the name of public health in a manner which creates a much larger public health danger.”

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