By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com June 13 2012 1:02 PM ET
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and advocates announced changes to the NYPD patrol guide intended to improve the way officers interact with transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers.
The changes were announced Tuesday afternoon during the annual City Council Pride celebration at the Cooper Union in Manhattan. The event, which was emceed by Whoopi Goldberg, honored the NYPD LGBT Advisory Panel, a group of community leaders who have been working with senior police officials on the updates for two years.
According to a news release from the City Council, the changes “create a written policy for the NYPD to follow when addressing, processing, searching and housing gender non-conforming people.” The patrol guide is the procedural book issued to officers that lays out regulations for dealing with the public. The updated guide formally outlines that city law prohibits discrimination or harassment based on actual or perceived gender.
“The NYPD’s new Patrol Guide makes it clear that all people must be treated with respect,” said Speaker Christine Quinn in a statement. “I applaud Commissioner Kelly for working closely with the City Council and the LGBT community to create respectful, inclusive guidelines that are appropriate for transgender New Yorkers, and I thank the NYPD LGBT Advisory Panel for their work to make these changes.”
The nation’s largest law enforcement agency has been repeatedly criticized for inappropriate and abusive treatment of transgender people in its custody. A transgender woman filed a lawsuit this year alleging that she was called a “He-She” after her arrest and attached to a fence with her arm in an uncomfortable elevated position for over a day. A transgender man last year said that he was chained to a wall for eight hours after being brought to a station following his arrest during Occupy Wall Street.
"The changes to the Patrol Guide are significant, affecting more than 12 separate Patrol Guide provisions,” said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly in the statement. “The changes range from establishing search procedures for transgender arrestees to requiring officers to address arrestees by their preferred name. Senior members of my staff worked closely with representatives from the LGBT community to draft these changes, and I applaud their work."
According to the New York City Anti-Violence Project, one of the groups that worked with NYPD on the new guidelines, the patrol guide “now mandates that New York City Police officers must respect TGNC (transgender and gender non-conforming) people’s gender identity and expression when addressing, processing, searching, and housing them, and explicitly prohibits NYPD officers from conducting any search for the purpose of determining a person’s gender, a widespread practice reported by transgender and gender non-conforming individuals across the City for many years. They also address the dangerous practice of cuffing TGNC people to benches and rails while in police custody.”
The Los Angeles Police Department, the nation’s third largest police department behind New York City and Chicago, announced similar policy updates in April. Police chief Charlie Buck issued a memo calling on officers in contact with transgender individuals to “to respect the expressed gender and do not question it,” while barring frisks or questioning for the sole purpose of determining someone’s anatomical gender.
Transgender leaders hailed the updates to the patrol guide even as they acknowledged the work that remains.
“I am proud and happy of the work to change the culture between the NYPD and trans women,” said Melissa Sklarz, a NYPD LGBT Advisory Panel member and president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City. “These patrol guide modifications are a testament to our community perseverance and the ability of the NYPD to compromise. I am grateful to Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly and Speaker Christine C. Quinn for creating an environment to allow trans women, trans advocates and the NYPD to get together, meet regularly and try to reevaluate a police process that will make life for transgender women safer in New York.”
Advocacy groups said they would continue to work with the NYPD on training and enforcement to make sure the new guidelines are properly implemented. The groups also want the City Council to pass the Community Safe Act, which would include gender identity and expression among categories protected against police profiling.
The changes arrive as LGBT advocates prepare to join civil rights groups including the NAACP in a silent march on Sunday to protest the NYPD’s controversial “stop and frisk policy.” Opponents say that the practice unfairly targets young minority men, where officers stopped and questioned people 684,330 times last year, and 87% of them were African-American or Latino.