NCTE Welcomes Draft Report From President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing | National Center for Transgender Equality

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

NCTE Welcomes Draft Report From President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing

Final Report Expected in 30 Days

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes the draft findings and recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as a first step to ending racial profiling and violence by police. Transgender people are among those who have consistently been targeted by law enforcement officers. Over the past decade, several studies have found that transgender people, especially young transgender people of color, have been disproportionately mistreated, harassed and violated by police officers, with some interactions even leading to death. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by the NCTE and the National LGBTQ Task Force in 2009, found 22% of transgender people who interacted with police report harassment, 6% report physical assault, and 2% report sexual assault by police officers.

The Task Force has recommended to President Obama that he instruct the Department of Justice to adopt comprehensive policies banning police profiling, including profiling based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The recommendations also include prohibiting possession of condoms as evidence for intent to engage in prostitution-related offenses; developing policies about police interaction with transgender people including searches and housing placement; and ensuring effective tracking and work to combat sexual harassment and assault of transgender and other LGB people by police officers. 

NCTE joined LGBT equality organizations including Lambda Legal, the National LGBTQ Task Force, Streetwise and Safe and others in successfully advocating for the inclusion of these recommendations, which are most critical to transgender people who are commonly profiled by police. 

“We hope that the recommendations in the Task Force’s report will result in real changes in policing,” said Mara Keisling, NCTE Executive Director. “For too long and for too many transgender people, interactions with police officers have been a frightening,troubling, and sometimes deadly experience. This impedes our community’s ability to report crimes, including hate crimes committed against us, and can make us feel victimized rather than protected by the police.”

“Transgender youth, people of color and those who are homeless, are especially vulnerable to profiling and harassment by police,” said Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative at NCTE. “We need to hold police departments accountable when they target and violate members of our community. And bogus prostitution charges, sometimes called ‘walking while trans’ used mostly against transgender women of color, as well as sexual assault in custody need to end immediately.”

NCTE joined other organizations in submitting written recommendations to the President’s Task Force concerning gender and sexuality-specific forms of racial profiling and discriminatory policing. Areas of particular concern include:  

  • Verbal harassment and abuse 
  • Profiling and discriminatory enforcement of prostitution-related offenses 
  • Failure to respect individuals’ gender identity and expression while in custody
  • Sexual harassment and assault 
  • Unconstitutional and unlawful searches 
  • Dangerous placement and cruel treatment while in custody

Based on these documented patterns and practices, NCTE and its allies made the following recommendations to the Task Force: 

Pass, effectively implement, and enforce transgender-inclusive anti-profiling measures
This includes expanding the protections of the Guidance for Federal Law Enforcement Agencies issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in December 2014 as well as passing the End Racial Profiling Act, which includes protections against profiling on gender identity and sexual orientation.

End discriminatory policing of homeless and low-income transgender people and sex workers
The U.S. Department of Justice should issue guidance on criminalizing begging by homeless persons, inclusive of transgender identities, and should investigate civil rights abuses of homeless people and sex workers by police agencies nationwide.

End the use of condom possession as evidence of all prostitution-related crimes
The Obama Administration should issue and publicize guidance condemning the reliance on mere possession or presence of condoms as evidence of intent to engage in criminal activity that disproportionately affects transgender women of color.

Establish nationwide standards for treatment of transgender people in police custody
The U.S. Department of Justice should develop national standards regarding placement, searches, and interactions with transgender individuals by police departments and should amend Prison Rape Elimination Act regulations to prohibit bodily searches of transgender arrestees to determine their gender in lock-ups.

End sexual harassment and assault of transgender people by police officers
Federal law enforcement agencies must adopt policies that document, prevent, and address sexual harassment, abuse, and assault by local police against transgender people and the U.S. Department of Justice should aggressively enforce existing laws that prohibit rape and sexual assault in police custody.

Click here to read the full testimonial letter.

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