LAPD Officers Have Been Harassing Transgender People -- But They Promise to Stop | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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LAPD Officers Have Been Harassing Transgender People -- But They Promise to Stop

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Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 1:45 PM

click to enlarge Justice for the trannies of WeHo. - PATRICK RANGE MCDONALD
  • Patrick Range McDonald
  • Justice for the trannies of WeHo.
The bad news: A new report out of UCLA's Williams Institute reveals "high levels of reported harassment and assault of Latina transgender women" by Los Angeles law enforcement, including the LAPD.

The good news: In a meeting in West Hollywood last night, LAPD officials announced some new measures they'll be taking to avoid transgender maltreatment in the future. Including, most ridiculously...

... "not making the assumption a transgender person is involved in prostitution."

Well there's a start! Among the other accommodations they'll be making, going forward:

  • Officers will operate under a new set of guidelines for how to interact with transgender individuals. The code will mandate "appropriate language, acknowledgment of an individual's preferred gender identity and expression [and] respect for privacy."
  • Officers will no longer pat down transgender individuals to determine their gender. Instead, according to CBS LA, they'll have to "rely on a transgendered person's clothing, language or demeanor to determine how to address the individual."
  • In a new girls-only wing at the LAPD's downtown Metropolitan Detention Center -- set to open by the end of April -- one section will be exclusively reserved for up to 24 transgender detainees.
  • Guards must provide the detainees with "male and female clothing and medical treatment, including hormones," according to the Los Angeles Times.

The changes are conveniently timed with an April 2012 report out of the Williams Institute, a branch of the UCLA law school that focuses on gay issues. (The only one of its kind in the country, FYI!)

Its disturbing conclusions are based on interviews with 220 transgender Latinas (male-to-female) over the age of 18 in Los Angeles County, conducted between December 2010 and June 2011.

Straight from the report:

  • Two-thirds 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."

So you can see where LAPD Chief Charlie Beck got the "acknowledgment of an individual's preferred gender identity" bit, among others.

The more concerning parts of the report deal with actual assault and sexual assault on the part of law enforcement. There are no particular details on these incidents -- the Latinas questioned likely didn't want to deal with the law/justice system any further than they already had -- but the report does show that they most often involved police, as opposed to sheriff's deputies or prison guards.

click to enlarge WILLIAMS INSTITUTE
  • Williams Institute
This isn't to rail on the LAPD. At least they're vowing to try and fix the problem.

Meanwhile, the beleaguered L.A. County Sheriff's Department -- who patrols West Hollywood, L.A.'s premiere gayborhood -- is nowhere to be found. Ironically and embarrassingly, the LAPD highlighted the sheriff's absence by choosing WeHo as the venue for last night's outreach meeting.

Even San Francisco is impressed. A statement, today, from Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in NorCal:

"This is a huge victory for transgender people who may interact with the police, and for transgender inmates. It sets a great precedent for police departments nationwide. We often receive calls from people who have experienced police harassment and experienced violence in prison, so we are thrilled that the LAPD is taking steps to remedy this tragic situation."

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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