Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno has said that he plans to introduce an ordinance that will create a commission to handle and ensure the protection of transgender people while in police custody.
The proposed ordinance comes after a number of complaints from the trans community over how they have been treated.
According to a fact sheet put out by veteran activist Rick Garcia and Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), the ordinance will mandate a policy for interacting with transgender detainees and set up a mayoral-appointed commission to oversee the treatment of transgender arrestees.
“It’s a human rights issue,” said Moreno, who added that the ordinance is intended to address a “hole in the policy of the police of Chicago.”
The policy comes after years of complaints from transgender people who have reported being harassed or misgendered by police officers.
Moreno said he hopes the ordinance will tackle distrust widely felt among transgender communities of police.
“We can’t expect our police department to deal with a segment of the population if they’re not trained in how that segment wants to be addressed,” he said.
Formally titled The Police Treatment of Transgender Individuals Ordinance, the measure would specifically add gender identity definitions to police policy, therein requiring police to treat trans individuals as a cognizable group, and requiring police to undergo training with regards to how to deal with trans people in their custody.
In addition to adding protections for transgender people, the ordinance would effectively create the Police Transgender Issues Commission, a supervising body that would develop additional training for police officers and ensure the implementation of such training across the city. It would also release an annual report detailing the police’s adherence to the new guidelines.
Martinez said the commission is the most important part of the ordinance.
“It would be the first of its kind and I think it will have national implications if passed. The Transgender Police Issues Commission would be the first time, to my knowledge, such a body has been created,” he said.
The commission would be composed of six transgender Chicagoans or people who work for LGBT organizations and five Chicago Police officers, according to a fact sheet from TCRA.
The 2010 National Transgender Discrimination Survey carried out by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that over half of respondents said they felt uncomfortable seeking police assistance, often times meaning that they did not report instances of abuse or harassment simply because they feared how they would be treated by police. In addition, almost a fifth of respondents said they had faced harassment from police officers. This figure rose when examining transgender women of color.
This is not to misstate that Chicago has a particular problem with regards to police treatment of trans people beyond that of most other police departments. As the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed, a lack of protections has left the community vulnerable throughout the USA.
In somewhat related news, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy recently introduced a bill that would add gender identity to Illinois’ hate crimes law. Read more on that here.