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New report shows police fail to serve transgender people

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WASHINGTON — A new report from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has found that police departments across the country have not adopted policies to protect the rights of transgender people.

The report, Failing to Protect and Serve, found systemic neglect by police nationwide to take proactive measures to prevent the mistreatment and misidentification of transgender people during arrests, witness interviews, search and seizure, and housing of transgender people.

According to a press release from the NCTE, the report found, among the 25 largest police departments in the U.S., that:

  • No department explicitly requires regular training on transgender interaction policies for all members across rank.
  • No department required for officers to respectfully record the name currently being used by the individual that is separate from the spaces used for legal names or aliases in Department forms.
  • No Department explicitly provides for transgender individuals to be transported along with individuals of the same gender identity.
  • Only two departments explicitly prohibited sexual conduct between officers and those in their custody
  • Out of the sixteen departments with holding facilities, only four adequately address access to hormone medications. 
  • Out of the sixteen departments with holding facilities, 10 failed to provide specific guidance on housing placement for transgender individuals. 
  • A majority of departments (16 of 25) fail to provide search procedures for transgender individuals and/or require members to perform searches based on sex as assigned at birth or genitalia.
  • Only nine of the 25 departments include gender identity and/or expression language in their non-discrimination policy, which is the best way to clarify that transgender people are protected.

“On the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, transgender people of color remain targets of harassment, abuse, and violence,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “If we ever hope to end this crisis, police departments must evolve to meet the needs of the communities they have sworn to serve. The solutions we offer can lead these communities and our nation’s law enforcement to a more equitable future, but we must get there together.”

Chicago was the only Illinois city to be specified in the report. While the Chicago Police Department has policies on nondiscrimination, using preferred pronouns, against working with ICE, medical access and civilian oversight, actual actions fall short.

Among the issues:

  • Policy refers to gender nonconforming people, but does not explicitly recognize nonbinary gender identities, or state how policies on pronouns, searches, or placement apply to them.
  • Policy prohibits members from conducting searches to determine gender, or to subject transgender individuals to more frequent or more invasive searches. However, policy states that all searches shall be “performed by persons of the same gender” “as it appears on the individual’s government-issued identification card,” with an exemption for individuals who are “post operative” (undefined).
  • Department policy does allow for transgender arrestees to request an officer of their gender identity be present for their transport, but requires transgender individuals be transported separately from other arrestees.
  • Department policies fail to prohibit sexual misconduct by members of the Department, establish prevention or accountability mechanisms for officer sexual misconduct, or fully incorporate the PREA Lockup Standards.
  • Department policy fails to prohibit police from monitoring public restroom use or address bathroom use in stations.
  • Policies fail to prohibit the confiscation or use of condoms as evidence.
  • Policy does not require training on interactions with transgender individuals.
  • Policy requires members to record current name, but list it as an alias and does not require documenting pronoun. Additionally, policy requires members to classify gender as it appears on government ID with an exception based on surgical status.
  • Policy does not clearly prohibit asking invasive questions of transgender and gender-nonconforming people that are not relevant to the police interaction.

More than half (58%) of transgender people who interacted with law enforcement in the last year reported experiences of harassment, abuse or other mistreatment by the police according to the US Transgender Survey (USTS).

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