Coalition on Prostitution
PO Box 210256
San Francisco, CA 94121
Report for: San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Police Accountability Hearing
Date: April 11, 1995
Below is a list of general categories of complaints against the police by sex workers:
I. Categories of Misconduct
1. Verbal Abuse
a) A tally of complaints by street workers about police misconduct included numerous complaints of sexist, racist and homophobic verbal abuse on the streets, in police cars and during booking.
2. Illegal arrests
a) 372 of the Penal Code, the public nuisance which is the main law used to target prostitutes in sweeps, are consistently made illegally, without warnings.
b) Public nuisance guidelines specify that groups of people should not be targeted for just standing on the corner, and that the law should only be applied to specific individuals who blocking traffic, or causing a specific problem that fits within guidelines. This directive is consistently broken.
c) One woman told me that (I have witnessed this) there may be 5 people on a sidewalk, including "suspected drug dealers" and the police will carefully extract a women, who is basically just standing there.
3. Physical abuse
a) Attached is a story about an illegal arrest of Yvonne Dotson who brought the case to court and won a decision against the police last year. This case involved undue force by police officers.
b) I have heard scattered reports within the last year of physical abuse against prostitutes.
c) During an outreach activity, members of our Coalition were shocked to witness officers using extreme force, handcuffing and hurting a small woman in the process of throwing her into a police car. The outreach workers were particularly shocked that the officers conducted this activity unabashedly in front of the outreach workers.
4. Using the Condoms Against Prostitutes
In the course of arrests, in order to secure proof of prostitution, obtaining the act of furtherance, officers ask suspected prostitutes if they will use a condom. Although the District Attorney officially stopped the practice of using this in court, officers still use discussions about condoms as a way to entrap prostitutes into agreeing to perform services. Officers sometimes insist that they will not use condoms, so that the prostitute has to insist that she does use a condom. She is then arrested, obviously punished for asserting that she will use a condom.
5. Rape of Prostitutes by Officers
Although reports are rare, last year an officer, Francis Hogue was charged with forced oral copulation for raping a masseuse who he suspected of being a prostitute.
6. Theft of Property
Outreach workers have received a number of complaints from prostitutes that police officers regularly steal money from them in lieu of arrest.
II. Specific Incidents of abuse/misconduct
Below is a list of complaints by street workers in San Francisco made to us over the course of the year:
-- One reported physical abuse from one officer who's name came up again and again as someone verbally abusive.
--I have heard many complaints of verbal abuse from two specific officers who have been directly involved with prostitution control for well over a year.
--A woman reported that she, although she was not working at the time, an officer detained her, then told her to turn around and walk to other way
-- A woman said the police "stop me for no reason"
-- A woman said she was "standing on corner, cops came up from behind and searched purse without warrant...looking for drugs..."
-- a young man said [the] beat cops on Polk street...cop stole his joint."
--A woman said she was "hit by officer when she talked back after he called her bitch"
--A woman said "[cops] ask for ID...ask how many dicks you suck.."
--"[cops] call you hooker, slut"
-- A woman said a particular officer "told her to put out her cigarette..looked through purse...brought her to station for 6 hours...called her 'whore and scumbag'"
--Several reports made reference to a particular officer with numerous complaints against him.
--A woman said the police: "Stop and ask stupid questions...are they real breasts?
--In October 1995, an officer was transferred from Vice after a prostitute complained. The officer had abuse his authority and sexually harassed new or more vulnerable prostitutes for at least a year, asking them to undress in front of him before he agreed not to arrest them.
--Yvonne Dotson was awarded $85,000 from the City of San Francisco as a result of police misconduct in the course of the Prostitution Abatement Program.