LOS ANGELES— A Los Angeles police officer who stops a man dressed as a woman now has to think twice before calling the person “Sir.”
The policy is the latest step in the long process of making the Los Angeles police a more sensitive and professional force by ensuring police contacts with the transgender community are respectful and courteous, said Beck. When a person identifies as transgender, officers are directed to “respect the expressed gender and do not question it,” Beck writes in a memo to all department personnel. The memo also bars officers from frisking individuals or questioning them for the sole purpose of learning their anatomical gender.
The San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center applauded the LAPD’s new policies. The center said it has received many complaints from transgendered people saying they’ve experienced police harassment. “This is a huge victory for transgender people who may interact with the police, and for transgender inmates,” said Masen Davis, the center’s executive director.
“Policies like this codify an organization’s values and express them to the community. The LAPD is trying to commit to respecting the transgender community with its policies,” Jenness said. “I wish policies like this had been in place a long time ago.”
The guidelines – which are not yet posted on the LAPD website– include an explanation of the terms transgender, gender identity, and gender expression. “Quite apart from one’s birth sex as male or female, an individual may identify as a particular gender and express that gender various
ways,” the Notice says.
The guidelines “are established to ensure police contacts with transgender individuals are professional, respectful, and courteous:
- Do not use language that a reasonable person would consider demeaning to another person, in particular language that references a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation;
- Treat transgender personas in a manner that reveals respect for the individual’s gender identity and gender expression, which includes addressing them by their preferred name and using gender pronouns appropriate to the individual’s gender self-identity and expressions, and:
- Recognize that non-traditional gender identities and gender expressions do not constitute reasonable suspicion or prima facie evidence that an individual is or has engaged in prostitution or any other crime.
The Notice continues with explaining how to address a transgender individual- including not questioning a person’s gender identification, how to conduct field searches, a reminder that “no proof of an individual’s gender is required” during questioning – and this:
A search or frisk shall not be performed for the sole purpose of determining an individual’s anatomical gender;
Transgender individuals shall not be subject to more invasive search or frisk procedures than non-transgender individuals.
There’s more to this than just making sure trans people are not profiled for prostitution and are treated with dignity when stopped. On the afternoon before the evening Forum on April 12, the Latino/a civil rights and HIV organization Bienestar released a new report- funded by the Williams Institute – that was a scathing indictment of the LAPD for its treatment of transgender Latinos. Bienestar has had a support program for immigrant trans Latinas since 1996.
The following is an excerpt from a press release with some of the report’s key findings:
- Two-thirds of participants reported verbal harassment by law enforcement.
- Twenty-one percent reported physical assault by law enforcement.
- Twenty-four percent reported sexual assault by law enforcement.
- Of those lodging a report against the police, two-thirds stated that their report had been handled “poorly” or “very poorly”.
- Almost 60% of those stopped by law enforcement in the previous year believed that this had occurred without their violating any law. Many reported being stopped while doing everyday things like “coming back from the grocery store” and “waiting for the bus”.
- The vast majority (71 %) described the police’s interactions with the transgender community in negative terms. Typical responses included comments that police were aggressive and disrespectful and sometimes used male terms or called them “it”.
As noted in the report, these negative interactions with law enforcement result in the underutilization of police services by Latina transgender women needing such services.
- Fifty-five percent reported having been a victim of a crime by others.
- Of these, only 56% actually reported the crime to the police.
- Of those reporting crimes, 57% reported that they had been treated poorly (35%) or very poorly (22%) by the police when reporting the crime to them.