Colman Domingo
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LGBTQ+ People Receive More Scrutiny, Negativity From Police: Study

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Queer people are six times as likely than the general population to be stopped by police, according to a new study, which provides evidence to back up the long-held belief that the community is overpoliced.

Researchers at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, looked at data from the Generations Study — a long-term study of three generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people — and the Police Public Contact Survey. The data did not include transgender people, but the Williams Institute noted that trans folks, especially women of color, often have negative experiences with police.

Six percent of LGBQ people reported having been stopped by police in a public space versus 1 percent of the general population, the Williams Institute reports. Nearly seven times as many LGBQ people were stopped by the police for reasons other than those involving a vehicle, and about twice as many LGBQ people reported seeking police help compared to the general population.

LGBQ people also reported more frequent police stops in vehicle-related matters, whether as a driver or passenger, and in traffic accidents. “The findings were similar across sex and race,” according to the study.

“The much higher rates of LGBQ adults reporting being approached by the police is consistent with the idea that LGBQ people are over-policed and raises the issue of bias-based profiling of LGBT communities in general,” the Williams Institute notes.

The institute found that most people, both LGBQ and in the general populace, were satisfied with police response. “But compared with the general population, fewer LGBQ adults agreed that police behaved properly during their contact,” 81 percent versus 91 percent, the report says. In particular, fewer women in the LGBQ group called their interactions with police satisfactory. And 22 percent of LGBQ people said they were unlikely to contact police again, while only 6 percent of the general population did.

The lower rate of satisfaction “may reflect lower levels of trust” in the police by LGBQ people, because of the perception that members of this community are targeted as suspects or that crimes against this community are not taken seriously, the report observes.

“Although data about transgender people were not available in the datasets analyzed for this brief, research indicates that transgender people, particularly women of color, are at heightened risk of negative police interactions, including harassment and assault,” the Williams Institute concludes. “As police reform is being discussed nationally, it is important that reforms include attention to policing of LGBTQ populations across race and gender.”

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