Ald. Proco Joe Moreno has introduced an ordinance to City Council aimed at easing problems within the Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) in handling transgender detainees.
Moreno introduced the ordinance March 14, after nearly two years of advocacy by local transgender activists.
The ordinance would mandate that CPD adopt a policy for handling transgender detainees and would create oversight by the city's Human Relations and Public safety committees.
The ordinance comes after years of complaints from transgender people who have reported being harassed by CPD officers.
Last month, a Chicago transgender woman filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Cicero over similar complaints. According to the complaint, Bianca Feliciano was stopped by police under suspicion that she was engaged in sex work, without reasonable cause. The complaint alleges that police verbally taunted her because of her gender identity, refusing to use her legal name and referring to her with male pronouns.
Moreno has said that he hopes the ordinance will ease distrust transgender people feel towards police in Chicago.
"It's a human-rights issue," Moreno previously told Windy City Times, adding that the ordinance is intended to address a "hole in the policy of the police of Chicago."
Similar policies have been implemented in other cities, most notably in Washington D.C., which has an active transgender coalition. But the D.C. policy has largely failed to keep police accountable, according to activists. In late February, the DC Trans Coalition announced that they would testify before the DC Council Judiciary Committee that police had not followed through with the promise to keep transgender detainees safe and solve anti-transgender murders.
"We have concluded that a culture of anti-trans bias within [ the police department ] is at the root cause of these persistent challenges," the coalition said in a statement. "This intrinsic bias against trans people manifests itself in several ways."
Transgender people have reported being denied access to hormones while behind bars as well as being placed according to their birth gender in jail and prison facilities, sometimes putting them at risk for violence.
Lakeview Action Coalition ( LAC ) began talks about writing a CPD policy approximately two years ago, after receiving a report for a transgender woman who claimed she had been arrested under suspicion of soliciting sex while she was actually grocery shopping. LAC has been in meetings working on the policy itself, while other activists have been pushing for the city ordinance.
The LGBT Citywide Coalition, which is made up of more than 30 groups, has signed on in support of the ordinance. Nearly 80 organizations in total are backing the ordinance.
An original draft of the ordinance mandated the created of a mayoral-appointed commission to oversee CPD handling of a transgender policy. That commission would have contained both police and transgender advocates. The initial draft, however was abandoned in favor of an ordinance that placed oversight within the council. Moreno said the shift represented a compromise that cut down on bureaucracy and cost.
Moreno said he expects the ordinance to pass after a full hearing with transgender individuals and advocates.
"We have some education to do out on the floor," he said.