Chicago Police Department Enacts Transgender Policy
The Chicago Police Department recently joined other major cities by signing a general order regarding the appropriate, respectful treatment of transgender individuals by police officers. Next week, with input from local LGBT groups, they will begin to decide how gender is determined.
"It’s significant for the Chicago Police Department, it’s great for the city and it’s good for the community. But the General Order is not the final order," said Christina Kharl, an Equality Illinois (EQIL) board member who was integral to the process of getting the order in place.
The Chicago Police Department General Order on Interactions with Transgender, Intersex, and Gender Nonconforming Individuals (G02-01-03) is both an important step forward and very much a work in progress. It came as a surprise to stakeholders when CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy quietly signed the order into effect on August 22, 2012.
"We were not made aware that they were enacting this policy," said Anthony Martinez of The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), a group that has had an observer role thus far, but hopes to take on a more active role now that the order is in place. "I think not engaging the community on that was a mistake on their part."
"I’m not sure what prompted that fit of initiative," echoed Kharl, who was also quick to praise the CPD overall. "The police have been great. It’s unprecedented."
The road to the general order began two and a half years ago when a transgender woman approached the Lakeview Action Coalition (LAC) via a member institution after she was allegedly harassed and arrested for solicitation while grocery shopping.
"LAC made this happen. We brought the lack of a policy to the police officials. We researched existing policies and drafted a proposal, all the time meeting with immediate stakeholders, including homeless and at risk trans youth," said LAC Executive Director Jennifer Ritter.
Despite the lack of fanfare surrounding the signing, those involved are both guardedly optimistic and aware of how much work there is yet to come.
"It’s a promising example of how we can adapt, adjust and readjust. There’s room for amendment and editing. Now it’s a matter of dealing with the language and nailing things down. The goal is not just to have a policy that’s better than anywhere else in the nation, but one that is best for the transgender community," said Kharl.
Amendment and adjustment could begin as soon as Monday, September 17, when groups including LAC, EQIL, TCRA, and the Center on Halsted will gather with representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the CPD for a meeting that was scheduled long before the order was signed.
The main issue on the table is gender determination. The order specifies government-issued ID as the primary criterion and an arrestee’s self-report regarding genitalia as the secondary criterion. Although community organizations are quick to applaud the order for explicitly prohibiting "stop, detain, frisk," all agree that the current language falls far short.
"An ID is not the cure-all. Genitalia is not the be-all, end-all," said Kharl.
"We have been pushing the CPD to allow for more choice in the policy. The transgender individual knows best what keeps them safe, in terms of who searches them, how they are transported and where they are housed," added Ritter.
As for depending on government-issued ID, Ritter, Kharl, and Martinez all noted that the most vulnerable segments of the transgender community -- youth, the homeless and low-income individuals -- are both most likely to come in contact with the police and least likely to have government ID that reflects their gender.
"I think we’re all on board with LAC’s take that self-identification has to be the criterion," said Kharl.
Chicago Policy Similar to Those in Other Major Cities
Chicago joins cities like New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. in establishing a policy for police interactions with gender-nonconforming individuals. And they stand to learn from earlier mistakes.
"The 2007 policy in Washington, D.C. failed spectacularly. It’s a cautionary tale," said Kharl, who stressed the need not just for the specific, targeted training provisions and goals absent in the D.C. policy, but also for continued community engagement, oversight, and independent verification that the CPD is providing appropriate support for and enforcement of the order.
Cautious optimism also seems to characterize stakeholder attitudes toward training, partly thanks to insights from the process getting the order in place.
"[LAC] continued education and negotiation through several changes in police personnel. A great deal of our discussion was education on the issue for the police decision makers," said Ritter.
Similarly, Kharl described the long process as one of mutual education and an opportunity to look at other perspectives. Nonetheless, raising awareness and providing institutional support remain top concerns.
"There are two pieces to the education part of this: Setting community expectations, and training for the CPD regarding a new and significant policy shift," said Lisa Gilmore, Director of Education and Victim Advocacy at the Center on Halsted. For the community, a future session in the Center’s Legal Series: Know Your Rights is likely. Gilmore also noted that the Center has provided police training in the past and would welcome playing that role again.
"The eventual goal will be to institutionalize training for new officers coming up through the academy," said Gilmore. For active personnel, the Center will likely develop options for training ranging from 1.5-hour to day-long sessions for those who need continuing education credit obligations and for those have encountered transgender issues on the job.