Transgender people can expect to be treated with greater respect and dignity when dealing with the police thanks to new guidelines issued by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Police are now not allowed to use demeaning language when interacting with transgender individuals. Officers are required to address members of the transgender community by their preferred name rather than that given to them at birth, and use pronouns appropriate to his or her expressed gender.
Frisk searches are no longer permitted solely to determine a person’s anatomical sex. Requests to remove wigs or make-up are not allowed unless a similar request would be made of a non-transgender person in the same situation.
Additionally, a section of the LAPD’s new downtown jail will be set aside for transgender arrestees.
These guidelines were introduced to the public at an LAPD-sponsored community forum held Thursday night. The guidelines go into effect immediately. LAPD chief Charlie Beck signed the order earlier this week.
“This is a new LAPD,” said Karina Samala, who served as head of a nine-member task force that devised the guidelines.
For decades, the transgender community has complained about harassment and discrimination by police officers. Advocates have long called for more humane treatment of the transgender individuals.
“I know it seemed like transgender progress was really slow, but this time, the progress is major,” said Police Commissioner Richard Saltzman.
The guidelines are designed not only to assure greater safety for transgender individuals, but also to assure than the LAPD complies with the city’s Gender Identity Non-Discrimination ordinances. They are believed to be the first such guidelines in the nation.
Initial resistance from officers likely
Beck acknowledged there initially will be resistance to these changes from some police officers, noting that “no big organization is able to undergo a complete culture change just because of the issuance of a piece of paper.”
“Will this get violated? Oh yeah,” said Beck. “Will I take action against it? Yeah. Will I take action against the violator? Yes. Will I train people so they understand the application, so they see why this is important? Of course.”
As for the transgender section of the new downtown jail, Assistant Chief Michel Moore explained the two-year-old jail has a pod design, making it easy to dedicate a section for transgender arrestees. By isolating transgender individuals from the rest of the jailed population, it should reduce sexual violence and rape.
Historically, most transgender arrests have occurred in the Hollywood area, Moore said. Those transgender arrestees have been housed in the Hollywood jail, a male jail.
“Male-to-female arrestees are generally housed in male housing. That is the state of operations across the county,” Moore said. “The transgender community has said they feel disrespected by that and now we’re addressing that concern.”
Moore said the transgender section of the new jail can hold up to 50 people, but he does not expect it to ever be full. He noted that transgender arrests make up a very tiny percentage of the overall arrestee population.
Task force member Shirin Buckman called the experience of developing the guidelines the “most satisfying work I have ever done.”
“It was what needed to be done, it was a great need,” Buckman told Patch. “It was a pleasure to work with this community.”
After the community forum ended, transgender activist Desiree Jade Sol told Patch she was pleased with the guidelines.
“It took a lot of hard work to get to this point,” said Sol. “It’s not going to change everybody’s opinion overnight. As long as we have a reference point of where to go, moving forward as a police force, as human beings, we can all look forward to a greater future for everybody’s respect.”