After two years of work, the Philadelphia Police Department in December rolled out new standards for how its officers should treat transgender individuals — a first-of-its-kind directive for a city that’s no stranger to reports of police maltreatment.
Implemented last month, the new guidelines are the latest in a growing but slow-moving trend in U.S. cities, says Jennifer Orthwein, a pro bono attorney for the Transgender Law Center in California. Since 2012, law enforcement agencies in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and Albany, N.Y. — the kind of cities where larger transgender populations and more advocacy groups tend to exist — have all issued similar procedures in an effort to ensure fair and equal treatment of transgender people interacting with police. Orthwein points to regulations in the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, released in 2012, as prompting the wave.
Much like local non-discrimination ordinances, Orthwein says, establishing these kinds of protocols are necessary if cities want to reduce the much higher rates of assault at the hands of law enforcement experienced by transgender people. It’s an issue particularly important to transgender and LGBTgroups, she says, “because transgender individuals fear the police.”
“Often times when they’re victimized, [transgender people] won’t turn to the police because of fear of being treated as though they’re the perpetrator and not the victim,” Orthwein says. …