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Town hall looks at shortcomings of CPD trans policy
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2012-12-14

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Photo by Kate Sosin


A transgender policy adopted in August by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) is riddled with flaws; that is according to transgender advocates.

A coalition of groups discussed the new CPD general order at a Dec. 12 town hall meeting, and the overwhelming response to the policy was disappointment.

Lakeview Action Coalition and transgender activists had been pushing for the policy for more than two years. Organizing efforts began after police allegedly detained a transgender woman for sex work while she was in fact on her way home from buying groceries in Lakeview.

In August, CPD published the new general order without warning, making some speculate it had been prematurely adopted. That policy mandated that police not subject trans people to more frequent or invasive searches, that they use preferred names and pronouns and that they not assume transgender identity is cause for suspicion of a crime.

Overall, trans advocates concluded, the policy falls short.

"I don't think we should accept this general order as written in stone," Christina Kahrl, board member of Equality Illinois, said at the town hall meeting.

Trans advocates pointed out that the general order lacks oversight, doesn't allow trans people to self-identify and that its vagueness on some points leaves room for police misconduct.

Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, highlighted the fact that the order tells police to determine gender based on a person's government identification or their surgeries. It does not define what specific surgeries it means, nor it does say how police will determine if such surgeries have occurred. When no ID is present, the policy states, detainees are to be classified based on their genitalia.

Owen Daniel-McCarter, project attorney at the Transformative Justice Law Project, said people should be able to self-identify.

"IDs are a hot mess for trans people, and that shouldn't be the standard," he said.

McCarter noted that transgender people often do not want to change the gender marker on their IDs, and many more cannot because doing so might disqualify them receiving health insurance coverage for necessary gender-relegated health procedures.

Daniel-McCarter also pointed out that provisions in the policy, like placing a transgender person in their own cell, intended to keep a trans person safe from other detainees, can mean a trans person is left alone with law enforcement instead.

Advocates have other reservations about the policy, chief among them a presence of perceived loopholes that render it unenforceable.

"There is no accountability in this process," Daniel-McCarter concluded.

Advocates also cite a lack of understanding about who the policy really covers. The order states that it "establishes policies for interactions with transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming (TIGN) individuals for provide for their safety."

Attendees remarked that while "intersex" identity is named in the document, further discussion on intersex issues is absent.

Martinez also said that the policy lacks an understanding of identities between male and female.

Martinez and others said the policy is not set in stone. Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno previously introduced a city ordinance intended to make CPD adopt the policy. Activists hope that that ordinance will now be revised to fix perceived problems with the current policy, including adding more community oversight and training.

Joey Mogul, at attorney with the People's Law Office, said that policies like the CPD policy are critical, but added that there is no guarantee that police will follow it.

Transgender activist June LaTrobe expressed irritation that such a policy was even necessary, as transgender people are protected by both state and city non-discrimination laws.

"I find it kind of repugnant that I have to negotiate with the Chicago Police Department to follow the bleeping law," she said.


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