Department of Justice Says Profiling Of Trans People Is Wrong, But Too Many Exceptions

December 8, 2014

Today, the US Justice Department will release revised guidance on racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies, extending protections for the first time on the basis of national origin, disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, as well as race and ethnicity which were covered by guidance issued in 2003. The inclusion of protections for the LGBT community follows recent federal investigations finding unlawful police profiling of LGBT people, particularly in communities of color. However, the revised guidance contains large carve-outs for TSA airport and border security and certain anti-terror investigations, and will also not apply to most state and local law enforcement activities.

The National Center for Transgender Equality welcomes the historic extension of protections against federal police profiling to the LGBT community, but decries loopholes that will continue to permit most discriminatory policing. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 46% of transgender people say they would feel somewhat or very uncomfortable seeking police assistance, while only 35% said they would feel comfortable doing so. One-fifth (22%) of all trans people and 38% of Black trans people report experiencing transphobic police harassment—while 6% of all trans people, 9% of trans Latinos, and 15% of Black trans people report having experienced a transphobic assault by police.

Attorney General Eric Holder

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP Photo

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The National Center for Transgender Equality Reacts to Ferguson, MO Grand Jury Decision in Michael Brown Case

November 24, 2014

Michael BrownTonight, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri decided not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) expresses solidarity with Mr. Brown’s family and wishes for them peace and healing, and joins their family in a moment of silence to memorialize Brown’s life.

Transgender people know all too well that profiling of certain types of people by the police happens, especially to people of color, lower income people, young people and, of course, transgender people. Extensive violence against transgender people and others really happens—and sometimes at the hand of police. Trans people—particularly trans women of color—are frequent targets of both profiling and violence by police officers and others.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “We need to do better than we have been doing as a society. If we live in a society where people do not object to a young unarmed Black man being killed, we can’t expect that people will object when a transgender person is targeted. We believe no one in any community is disposable and we believe that the authorities need to take every act of violence seriously, whoever is the victim, whoever commits the violence, and whatever the circumstances.”

Keisling added, “St. Louis native Dr. Maya Angelou once wrote that ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’ Hopefully this tragedy will help us all understand that so many people in America have an untold story that much of America has been unwilling to hear, a story of stereotyping, disrespect and violence. We believe that America needs to hear the story that Black America, transgender America and other marginalized people are trying to tell. And citing another well known Angelou quote, America ‘should believe them the first time.'”

NCTE does believe the people of Ferguson and around the country who feel targeted for suspicion and violence.

NCTE will continue to advocate for greater oversight and accountability for law enforcement and for policies to end racial profiling and all forms of police bias and abuse.

The DOJ Must Act: Why Racial and Religious Profiling Rules Can’t Wait

October 20, 2014

BornSuspect_NAACPTrina, a transgender woman of color, is not a stranger to police profiling and harassment. When she was 17 years old, she an officer approached her while she was outside with friends at an LGBT community event in Manhattan’s West Village. Trina complied with the officer’s request to see her ID, and that’s when the officer began calling her a man and a “faggot.” Despite having a clean record, Trina was arrested that night because the officer found two condoms in her purse. The alleged crime was for prostitution and she was sent to the men’s holding area.

Transgender people are frequently profiled by law enforcement officers in the United States. Trina, along with other transgender and LGBT people, were among some of those profiled in an expansive new report by the NAACP called, “Born Suspect: Stop-and-Frisk Abuses & the Continued Fight to End Racial Profiling in America.” Released in September 2014—and in anticipation of action by the Department of Justice to address racial and religious profiling in federal investigations—the report documents and analyzes the effectiveness of racial profiling laws across the country. However, as the report states, “the current status of laws across the fifty states leaves little hope for a meaningful solution” to address racial profiling.

That is why guidelines on the use of racial and religious profiling from the Department of Justice are more important than ever—national standards are needed to ensure law enforcement nationwide remove racism and prejudice in their interactions with all people including transgender people of color.

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NCTE and 20+ LGBT Groups Observe Moment of Silence for Michael Brown

August 13, 2014

NMOS FlyerOn Thursday, August 14, 2014, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) joins thousands across the country to observe the National Moment of Silence in remembrance of victims of police brutality. The event was organized in response to the fatal shooting of an unarmed African American youth, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. Brown is one of several people in two weeks whose death is the apparent result of police brutality.

Transgender people have an enormous stake in ending police brutality. We know that transgender people, and especially transgender women of color, are incredibly vulnerable to police misconduct and brutality. The videotaped brutal beating of Duanna Johnson while in police custody, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Nizah Morris are only two examples.

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 38% of Black transgender and gender non-conforming people who had interacted with the police reported harassment with 14% reporting physical assault and 6% reporting sexual assault. Because of these experiences, 51% of Black survey respondents, and 46% of all transgender survey respondents, reported they were uncomfortable seeking police assistance if they needed it.

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Update: Repeal of DC Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act Hearing

July 10, 2014

Yesterday, Wednesday, July 9, the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on the Repeal of Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act of 2014 (B20-760). The act was introduced by Councilmembers David Grosso, David Catania, and Mary M. Cheh in April following a review of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)’s handling of hate crimes. A coalition of LGBT groups, including NCTE, performed this review and followed it up with recommendations for reforms at MPD and to D.C. law, including the repeal of prostitution free zones (PFZs).

During Wednesday’s hearing, Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety Andrew Fois reiterated the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)’s constitutional concerns and added that the office has “doubts about [the PFZ law’s] practical utility.” Fois stated that these misgivings arise from both the high standard of proof that is necessary to show intent to engage in sex work as well as the increasing role of online services in sex work, indicating that both the OAG and the MPD are in favor of the repeal bill.

Prostitution free zones were passed into law in 2006, but after the OAG expressed concerns in early 2012 that they might be unconstitutional, the MPD has avoided designating any space as a PFZ. Though PFZs have not been in use for over two years, organizations like HIPS and the D.C. Trans Coalition strongly support repeal, given that the mere existence of a PFZ law in D.C. enables police profiling and has inspired similar laws in other municipalities around the country

NCTE applauds the OAG’s and the MPD’s support for the repeal act.

Click here to email the DC City Council to tell them why they should repeal Prostitution Free Zones now.

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DC Poised to Repeal Discriminatory “Prostitution-Free Zone” Law

July 8, 2014

Since 2006, the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has had the power to designate any public space in D.C. as a prostitution free zone (PFZ), which has in turn given MPD officers the right to disperse or arrest anyone they believe to be meeting in the space for the purpose of prostitution. The Alliance for a Safe and Diverse D.C. noted in a 2008 report that PFZs enabled police officers’ existing inclination toward profiling people as sex workers based on personal appearance, race, and gender presentation.

NCTE Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin Attends Rally

NCTE Policy Director, Harper Jean Tobin, attended an April 2014 rally in D.C. in support of repealing prostitution free zones in the District.

The MPD stopped designating areas as PFZs in 2012 because of concerns that the zones were unconstitutional. However, the PFZ law is still on the books, and other municipalities around the nation have based their own similar laws on it. There have even been efforts by some businesses to revive use of the law.

Earlier this year, NCTE was part of a coalition of LGBT groups that reviewed how the DC MPD’s relationship with the LGBT community and its handling of hate crimes. Our report concluded in part that MPD had lost the trust of the LGBT communities, primarily because of the perception of profiling of transgender people and perceived indifference toward crimes against trans people. The report noted that these problems were connected in part to the trans people being perceived as being criminals and less worthy of respect and protection due to being involved in sex work.

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Step Forward: PGPD Abandons Live Tweeting Prostitution Sting

May 7, 2014

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.”

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