A new directive from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department strives to ensure the safety of transgender individuals. Sheriff Jewell Williams signed “Interaction with Transgender Individuals” during a press conference Friday at City Hall, making his the first sheriff’s department in Pennsylvania to implement such a policy.
The order establishes guidelines for Sheriff’s Department employees to interact with transgender individuals during apprehension, arrest, custody, housing and transport. It requires officers to address individuals by their chosen name, rather than the name listed on their government ID, and by their chosen pronouns. Additionally, it requires that all personnel, “when uncertain,” ask the individual which pronouns an individual uses.
Trans-identifying inmates and arrestees will fill out a “Transgender/Gender-Variant Statement of Search” form, which includes questions about gender identity and whether they prefer to be searched by a male or female officer while in custody.
At Friday's event, Deputy Sheriff Dante Austin thanked the members of the LGBT community who helped move the directive forward. Among those in attendance were Commission on LGBT Affairs members Deja Lynn Alvarez, Barrett Marshal and Kae Greenberg, as well as former Director of LGBT Affairs Nellie Fitzpatrick and State Rep. Brian Sims.
“As a proud member of the LGBT community and the LGBT liaison at the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, I’m extremely happy and excited for this directive to be implemented at this office,” Austin said.
Alvarez, a trans advocate, called the directive “amazing” and said it proves that “the city of Philadelphia is one of the most progressive cities in the entire country.
“A lot of people don’t realize that, for the trans community, the percentage of us having to deal with the Sheriff’s Department at one time or another is way greater than the average citizen of Philadelphia, particularly for trans people of color,” Alvarez said. “At some point, we are going to have to deal with law enforcement and, many times, it’s not due to our own circumstances.”
Officers will undergo a four-hour training on the new policies Oct. 14, Williams said.
Toward the end of the press conference, Williams noted the process of drafting the document impressed upon him the importance of respecting diversity.
“I’ve learned that the world is a place for all people,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have a lot of different circumstances. So if you take just a little bit of time to reach out and listen, you can help someone and actually change their life.”