After being accused of threatening sex workers with arrest for little more than carrying multiple condoms, the Metropolitan Police Department has started publishing and distributing cards to officers and sex workers alike specifying that merely carry prophylactics is not an arrestable offense.
The move comes after a July 2012 Human Rights Watch report on how police in various cities across the country deal with sex workers. In D.C., the report said, sex workers claimed they were often harassed by policewho said they could be arrested for carrying three or more condoms at a time; the condoms were used as evidence of prostitution, and could be confiscated.
After pressure from a coalition of organizations, though, MPD has started publishing cards—shown above—that stress that the "three condom rule" does not exist and that sex workers cannot be detained for carrying condoms alone. The cards also say that MPD supports the distribution of condoms as a means to stop the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and provides a telephone number that sex workers can call in order to file complaints against police officers.
“This important development will help promote condom use in the District, where we have one of the highest rates of HIV in the country,” said Rebekah Horowitz, Policy and Advocacy Manager at The Women’s Collective, in a press release.
“We often hear from community members that they believe possession of more than three condoms can be grounds for arrest,” added Cyndee Clay, Executive Director of Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS). “The MPD’s statements put the myth of the ‘three condom rule’ to rest and make clear the process for reporting police officers who violate the condom possession policy.”