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New Report Details Failure of Nation’s Police Departments to Protect and Serve Transgender People

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Ash Orr (they/he)

A new report reveals a widespread failure of the nation’s police departments to adopt or modernize policies protecting the rights of transgender people.

The National Center for Transgender Equality worked with dozens of local and state groups to develop individual reports for the policies of the 25 largest police departments in the country. 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.

Of the 25 largest police departments, the report found:

  • 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.

The full report, the individual department reports, and NCTE’s model policy recommendations may be read here.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, provided the following statement:

“On the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, transgender people of color remain targets of harassment, abuse, and violence. 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.”

According to NCTE’s 2015 US Transgender Survey:

  • A majority of transgender people (58%) who interacted with police in the last year were mistreated, including by being verbally harassed, repeatedly referred to as the wrong gender, physically assaulted, or sexually assaulted, including being forced by officers to engage in sexual activity to avoid arrest.
  • One in eight (17%) Black transgender people report having been physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, or forced to engage in sex with an officer to avoid arrest
  • One in three Black transgender women had an officer assume they were engaged in sex work
  • A majority (57%) of transgender people said they would be afraid to ask the police for help

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