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Riverside_County_ca_sealInteracting with law enforcement can be stressful for anyone. This is especially true of transgender individuals who all too often face discrimination, inappropriate comments, and hostility.  While most law enforcement personnel want to do what is right, we hear from many transgender people about the demeaning and degrading experiences they have had while under police custody. That’s why the National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with several other national and local LGBTQ groups, worked with Assistant Sheriff Raymond Gregory in Riverside California to create guidelines that ensure the appropriate treatment of transgender individuals.

After months of work, which included a number of other activists including Devin Payne with HRC and Thomi Clinton of TOR Palm Springs, the Riverside County Sheriff’s office issued guidelines  for law enforcement  relating to the treatment of transgender people. The new rules state that they were “created to ensure contacts with transgender individuals are professional, respectful and courteous.”

The new procedures make it clear that no language may be used that is demeaning to a person based on a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. Law enforcement officers are expected to respect and use an individual’s gender identity and gender expression by using their preferred name and gender pronoun without requiring legal documentation. The rules also make it clear that non-traditional gender identities and gender expressions do not constitute reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior. Furthermore, they prevent frisks or body searches to be done and do not allow questions about body anatomy or surgery in order to determine someone’s gender; prohibit asking transgender individuals to take off clothing or makeup or wigs that other members of the same gender identity or expression would not be asked to take off; and ban searches of individuals because they identify as transgender.

These policies are significant and Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff and his team should be applauded for their work on this issue and the important steps they have taken in issuing these guidelines.

But there’s still more work to be done. We are hopeful that the Sheriff’s office will do more outreach to recruit and hire additional LGBTQ individuals, including transgender individuals, and diversify the workforce to represent the community it serves.

Unfortunately, most law enforcement agencies in the U.S. don’t have similar policies, leaving transgender people vulnerable to inappropriate and illegal searches, demeaning treatment, and discriminatory behavior. That is why NCLR will continue to work to enact similar policies around the nation. While these policies are desperately needed in the criminal justice system they are also needed in the workplace, schools, and government offices.

NCLR is here to serve our community and we stand ready to work together to make our nation a safer and more equal one for every LGBTQ person.  If you are interested in enacting similar policies in your community please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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