A transgender man who does community outreach on behalf of Chicago House's TransLife Center advocacy was arrested and, he alleges, verbally harassed by Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) officers while in custody the early morning of July 25. CPD has no record of the incident or charges against the man, however.
Malik Pullum, a TransLife Center outreach worker, was arrested, he was told, for prostitution and disorderly conduct early that morning. He was released from custody at about 7:45 a.m. and a court date has been set for Sept. 26, he said.
When reached for comment by Windy City Times, Chicago Police said they had no record of Pullum's arrest. CPD spokesman Michael Carroll said, "We do not have a record of an individual named Malik Pullum placed into custody. If … they believe they suffered anti-trans taunts, clearly they can contact those Officers' direct supervisor and/or the Independent Review Authority ( IPRA )."
According to Pullum, he and three Chicago House colleagues were at the corner of 76th and Halsted streets speaking with locals from the neighborhood. In his capacity for TransLife Center, he distributes condoms and other necessities, and provides health and well-being information, for those experiencing homelessness and/or doing survival work.
"I was just out there, basically doing my job," Pullum recalled. "I was out there doing advocacy work, handing out condoms and making sure everybody was okay."
When police arrived, they told the crowd to disperse, and Pullum maintained that he actually helped them all to do just that.
"I actually moved the crowd for [the officer]," he recalled. "I told everyone to go further down, away from there."
He, his colleagues and some other acquaintances began walking down the street, he said, at which point the officer with whom they'd conversed earlier began slowly following them in her squad car.
Minutes later, several more squad cars showed up along with a paddy wagon, Pullul said. Much of the crowd dispersed, but Pullum stayed behind. He eventually did decide to leave the scene, but one of the officers said to another, "Get that motherfucker too."
"I put my hands up," Pullum recalled. "I said I was working. I showed them my badge [and] the bag of condoms. He said, 'Get that shit out of my face.'"
These officers let Pullum and the others go. The group returned to 76th and Halsted. Pullul rejoined the others and they prepared to leave the area.
"Then the very first cop pulls up," Pullum said. "At this point, I felt like I was being targeted. I thought, 'What is going on?'"
He and officer spoke for a few minutes, he added.
"Chicago has the highest murder rate in the nation right now, and the fact that you're out here hounding people for passing out condoms shows that CPD's priorities are very messed up," he told her.
A co-worker urged him to stop the argument and leave. As he walked away, he said to the officer, "The sad part is, we're the same skin tone."
Pullum alleged she said, "Oh, that's it, you're going to jail."
He informed the officer that he was born female, but his ID said male. "She was looking very confused. She put me in the car, and I kept asking why I was arrested. She said because I talk too much," Pullum said.
At the first police station, officers did not know whether they could search Pullul, or which gender he should be locked up with.
"They kept saying stuff like, 'I don't know why you were passing out condoms. They're all going to die anyway'very disrespectful stuff," Pullum said, adding that he was frequently misgendered in the officer's exchanges. Officers could not determine for which charges we was there, he added. At first they said "mob action," but they later determined disorderly conduct and prostitution.
At the suggestion of prostitution, Pullum recalled, "I really lost it. … I was in the processing stage for three hours," he added. "They did not know how to handle my situation."
He was moved to the station at 17th and State Streets. There, prior to being searched, an officer asked, "Do you have a johnson or a vajayjay?"
Officers there were ready to move Pullum to a hospital to get searched, but eventually undertook it there. The officer warned, "If you've got a johnson between your legs, I'll feel real disrespected and you'll get more charges."
Pullum's TransLife Center supervisor, Channyn Parker, said she received a call first from Pullul, then several of his colleagues early that morning. When Parker's supervisor attempted to phone the station, they were told that he was not there. When Pullum left the station, he was not given a written record of the arrest either, only a sheet mentioning the court date of Sept. 26 for charges of prostitution and disorderly conduct. His was the only arrest at the initial scene. On July 30, Pullul said that the prostitution charge had been removed.
Parker said that CPD may have "underestimated" the response they'd get, adding, "This is a climate when trans people are being advocated for." She said that advocates planned to visit the station about the matter at a later date.
CPD treatment of transgender individuals has long been controversial. The department, in 2012, adopted a general order mandating respectful treatment of transgender persons, following several years of regular complaints, mostly from transgender women who said they'd been stopped at night and mistaken for persons doing sex work when in fact they were going about their regular business.
The 2012 order directed that police not search transgender people in order to determine their gender, that officers respect preferred names and pronouns for transgender detainees and that police not use someone's gender identity as assumed cause for a crime. It further banned derogatory language against trans people. Those policies were further refined in late 2015.
But a damning report on CPD issued in January 2017 by the U.S. Justice Departmentthen under the auspices of the Obama administrationnoted a residual strong level of mistrust between transgender Chicagoans and officers, both when transgender persons report crimes and when they are under investigation and in custody.
The report noted that "the community has expressed concerns about the policy, including that it fails to ensure that transgender individuals are classified by their gender identity and does not require officers to ask an individual their preference regarding the gender of the officer to conduct a search. CPD might have more effectively addressed these concerns had CPD's outreach to the transgender community been more extensive."
Windy City Times asked Cook County State's Attorney's office for comment on Pullum's situation, but spokesperson Tandra Simonton said inquiries would have to be directed to CPD.