Commish talks new trans directive
by Jen Colletta
Jan 16, 2014 | 1610 views | 1 1 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
download Directive 152
The Philadelphia Police Department recently announced it was rolling out a written directive to guide officers’ interactions with transgender individuals, and PGN sat down last week with the city’s top cop to discuss the motivation for, and projected impact of, Directive 152.

The directive — which addresses all departmental contacts with transgender individuals, whether they are victims, offenders, witnesses or serving in another capacity — went into effect Dec. 20 and has been delivered to all districts. Supervisors will be required to review the policy at roll call, and have been provided a two-page summary of the nine-page directive’s main points to guide its presentation. All officers will sign off that they have received a copy of the document.

Police spokesperson Lt. John Stanford explained that a directive is a written, internal document that contains “policies, procedures, rules [and] regulations to guide members in the performance of their duties to ensure that a standard of professionalism is upheld.”

The directive was a topic of conversation at the mandatory LGBT-sensitivity training conducted this week by the LGBT Police Liaison Committee with the outgoing academy class.

This is the first time the department has ever had a written policy regarding interactions with trans citizens.

“We did not have a directive that dealt specifically with this issue, and it was way past time frankly that we set direction,” Ramsey said. “That’s what leads to confusion out in the field.”

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel, the department’s LGBT liaison, and Lt. Stephen Clark, commanding officer of the Strategic Planning Unit, led the drafting process, with input from Assistant District Attorney Nellie Fitzpatrick, the DA’s Office LGBT liaison; the Department of Behavioral Health and other LGBT leaders. The team looked into similar policies that have been instated at police departments in Chicago, New York City and San Francisco during their research.

“This wasn’t easy; it wasn’t like rewriting an existing directive,” Bethel said. “A lot of thought was put in, a lot people were brought to the table. It was a collective effort of a lot of people, and there was a lot of input and a lot of opportunity to comment from the community and that’s reflected in the document.”

Among its provisions, the directive stipulates that officers must, in accordance with the department mission and oath, safeguard the rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, among other factors; treat all persons with “courtesy and dignity”; refrain from bias or prejudice and discourteous or disrespectful remarks, including those based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In terms of interacting with the public, the directive describes that officers must address trans individuals with the name and pronouns that he or she prefers. If unsure of the individual’s gender identity, the directive says officers should respectfully ask the individual his or her preferred pronouns.

Officers are not permitted to stop or search any individual for the purpose of determining gender identity, challenge one’s gender identity unless where legally necessary, or use a person’s perceived gender identity as reasonable suspicion that the individual has engaged in a crime.

Individuals who enter the criminal-justice system will be identified in documentation by the legal name and sex on their government-issued identification, with their preferred name listed under the alias section.

All custodial and strip-searches are to be performed by an individual of the same sex as that listed on a trans arrestee’s government-issued ID. If an arrestee requests, an officer of the same gender identity can be present for a search.

Those who lack ID but who state they have male genitalia will be searched by males, while those who state they have female genitalia will be searched by females.

Trans-identified arrestees will be transported alone by prisoner van or other vehicles alone and a department member of the individual’s gender identity will be present during transport if the arrestee requests. Trans arrestees will also be assigned to single-occupancy holding cells “whenever practical.”

The directive also instates a new media policy regarding transgender-related cases. When releasing information to the media about a transgender arrestee, officers will use that person’s chosen name and gender identity.

Stanford said last week that the department will have to release the name and gender classification on the individual’s government-issued identification if a media outlet requests that information.

Bethel noted, however, that media outlets will ideally amend their own policies to fall in line with the directive.

“Media often says that we’re the ones reporting the information out and put [discrepancies with a trans person’s identity] on us,” Bethel said. “But now we’re putting this information out based on this process. So they’re going to have to make a decision to go against us or not. If they say that we’re the ones putting out the information in a certain way, we can now say, ‘No we’re not. And now it’s on paper.’ The pressure is now on them.”

The media department will rely on the name and gender classification on a trans individual’s government-issued ID if the individual is deceased. If no ID exists, the department will rely on identification information supplied by next of kin.

The directive also includes a wealth of definitions relating to the transgender community.

Bethel noted that backers of the measure are open to seeing it evolve.

“It will be amended and changed,” Bethel said. “Directives can change as we continue to see different issues arise. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a good starting point.”

Fitzpatrick concurred.

She said the department’s willingness to continue to revisit the document, and to make the process transparent, are significant.

“This is a document that typically the public is not privy to seeing. It’s very important that the department is wanting the community to see what they have on paper now,” she said. “There is definitely room for growth, and the department is actively wanting to improve. But on Dec. 19, the department had no directive, no direction, no accountability on these issues, and on Dec. 20, they did.”

Ramsey said he believes trans awareness among the department varies from member to member, based on personal and professional experience.

But one of the aims of the directive is to ensure consistency, he added.

“Officers who work in districts with high numbers of people who identify as transgender and have had contact with the community might have slightly more knowledge than officers in an area that doesn’t have as much contact with that population,” Ramsey said. “That’s why we need a directive and why we need standard training and why officers need to know who to call if they have a question so we don’t do anything that violates a person’s privacy or rights. Things need to be consistent across the board — whether you’re in Southwest, East, Center City — it doesn’t matter. Things will be handled the same all over.”

And for those department members without much interaction with the trans community, the directive is the first step towards awareness-raising, Ramsey noted.

“It starts with understanding,” he said. “This is a step forward in that direction. This is the 21st century. Our society is very diverse and has changed in so many different ways and we have to keep pace with it. We need to make sure that we’re not making assumptions that everyone coming into our ranks has this knowledge base or understanding about the transgender community, because that’d be a false assumption.”

With the directive in place, however, Bethel said officers need to be well-versed in its stipulations, or will face disciplinary action if they violate the directive.

“I expect the officers to be tested and they sure as hell better pass that test,” Bethel said. “There is no excuse at this point, now in the third week of the directive, that my officers are not prepared for this and do not understand the directive. There will be no excuses.”

Police Liaison Committee chair Franny Price commended the work of the directive’s backers, particularly Bethel.

“Someone finally heard us that the language has been an issue with the trans community. It’s very exciting,” she said. “For years we’ve seen things reported in mainstream media, heard about police remarks, we’ve talked about this at so many of our meetings and Deputy Commissioner Bethel listened to our concerns and did something about it.”

Price said she was encouraged that the graduating academy class all were armed with copies of Directive 152 at Monday’s LGBT training and offered insightful comments and questions about the policies.

Fitzpatrick said the training was “night and day” from previous sessions in terms of the level of attentiveness and receptiveness of the participants, which she said may have been motivated by the directive.

“Deputy Commissioner Bethel addressed the entire group before we did the training and it was really impressive to listen to him really express that this is no longer a matter of what your personal thoughts or feelings are, this is a directive. It doesn’t offer any give or bend, it will be strictly enforced,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s fantastic to see the department from within cares so much. It’s easy when you’re on the outside to make demands of what the police department should do and get angry at them, but to see them actively working to try to improve from within and from the top-down is really impressive.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
January 17, 2014
I thought from the headline that the police department hired a Trans Detective.

I appreciate what they are doing but the idea that I got goes along with my 9 authored and published murder mysteries where the amateur sleuth is a professional female impersonator.