In addition to learning to deal with emergencies, police officers undergo training to improve daily interactions with diverse people from their communities. To accomplish this, many departments are adopting new strategies for communicating with marginalized individuals, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Philadelphia improves rapport with transgender community
According to The Inquirer, members of the transgender community in Philadelphia have long felt ostracized, suffering degrading comments by police officers, false information and even potential assault after being placed in jail. This is a national concern, however. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 29 percent of transgender individuals report being harassed or disrespected by police. Half of those who experience harassment say they are too uncomfortable to seek help from the authorities.
In December, the Philadelphia Police Department enacted an uncommon policy change to inform officers how to interact with members of the transgender community. Philadelphia’s focus on sensitivity training is intended to create a better overall rapport with transgender individuals through respectful use of pronouns, making appropriate housing decisions and speaking with reporters.
“Every community ought to feel that police are there to serve, that they can call them with confidence,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey told The Inquirer. “We’re not here to judge folks – we’re here to serve folks.”
Trust requires diverse participation
Philadelphia is not the first city to enact change in this manner. In 2012, Chicago implemented new rules for the treatment of transgender individuals. The move was made after more than two years of advocacy by over 30 local groups, according to the Windy City Times. Members of the Chicago Police Department are now required to respect the preferred names and pronouns for transgender people.
Although not focused specifically on the transgender community, cities across the country continue to address the fair treatment of all LGBT people. In Washington, D.C., for example, the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force recently completed a study on how the capital city can improve the relationship between its police department and the LGBT community. The recommendations included real-time access to hate-crime data, improved training by 2015, and a more visible role for the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unity within the department. Most importantly, the GLLU was urged to take steps to improve trust by hiring a member of the transgender community.
Activist groups from cities across the U.S. recognize that these efforts will take time. Officers must be trained, be able to incorporate the terminology into their daily interactions and take advantage of opportunities to use the guidelines effectively. Members of the marginalized groups also need an opportunity to develop an active voice in policy improvements. The result could be a more positive relationship between law enforcement and marginalized individuals.
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