Alderman Joe Moreno introduced the Police Treatment of Transgender Individuals ordinance at a Chicago City Council meeting on March 14, after nearly two years of advocacy by local transgender activists.
If approved, CPD would adopt a policy for handling transgender detainees with supervision by the city’s Human Relations and Public safety committees.
“We need our police officers to be trained to treat transgender people with dignity and respect,” Moreno said to ChicagoPhoenix.org.
The initial version of this legislation would have created the Police Transgender Issues Commission, a supervising committee developing training for handling transgender people. The commission would have been composed of five Chicago Police officers and six transgender Chicagoans or people who work for LGBT organizations. They would have also released an annual report detailing the police adherence to the new guidelines.
The ordinance comes on the heels of Cicero transgender woman Bianca Feliciano’s lawsuit against the Cicero Police Department and two officers. Feliciano alleges police wrongly assumed she was a prostitute because she is a transgender woman and refused to accept her state ID, which identified her as a woman.
Nearly half of transgender people feel uncomfortable seeking police assistance, and 60 percent of transgender women—particularly transgender women of color—reported harassment from police, according to a study completed by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Prisons, jails and law enforcement aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so as far as reducing harm goes, this ordinance could be somewhat effective. Incarcerated transgender people are often housed in facilities that reflect their legal sex, and they are more likely to be raped, brutalized and harassed. Otherwise, they are placed in solitary confinement where they are usually in a cell 23 hours per day and have little to no outside contact.
CPD currently uses the video below in diversity trainings, aimed at informing law enforcement about the different communities in Chicago. While it’s not bad that CPD is address concerns of the transgender community, they could do a lot better than this.