Yesterday evening, the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) in Maryland released a statement after conducting a prostitution sting operation. The PGPD relented to community advocacy and chose not to live tweet during the raid. An announcement last week promised to live tweet photos of those arrested, but in the end there were no live tweets and no arrests.
The PGPD faced criticism from organizations like the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), HIPS and other sex worker rights groups after announcing they would tweet pictures of clients of sex workers at a planned sting operation. That sting operation took place on May 6th with no arrests.
“We’re glad PGPD abandoned the unwise plan of live tweeting after community concern,” said NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin, “However, police should focus on protecting sex workers from those who assault or rob them instead of engaging in broad stings and public shaming. We hope PGPD will collaborate with community members, including advocates for sex workers themselves, on more constructive solutions to violence against sex workers.”
NCTE joined local advocates like DC-based HIPS in calling on the PGPD to stop this effort. Sex worker safety and respect is a priority for NCTE as the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey notes, 16% of transgender respondents had engaged in the underground economy, including sex work, to get by.
This issue continues to receive national attention on the heels of the case of Monica Jones. Jones, an Arizona State University student and transgender woman of color, last month was convicted of something called “manifesting prostitution” under a city statute. The law, facing scrutiny from legal groups like the ACLU, allows law enforcement to question or detain anyone who they believe appears to be a sex worker.
“Our community has to move this issue higher up our agenda. The people who pass laws that allow police profiling and intensifying criminalization of sex workers fall especially hard on transgender people and anyone else who is marginalized in our society,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “The core issue is the same. It’s an effort to criminalize us for being who we are and for trying to get by.”
NCTE has been proud to work with the PGPD in developing the Justice Department’s innovative law enforcement training on transgender issues. NCTE will continue to engage with law enforcement on all these issues to increase safety and dignity for all people. NCTE’s recent publication, “Standing With LGBT Prisoners: An Advocate’s Guide to Ending Abuse and Combating Imprisonment” provides guidance for state and local advocates on working against the criminalization of LGBT people.