NJ requiring cops to respect trans people, use their preferred pronouns
TRENTON — The state has rolled out new rules governing how police officers interact with LGBTQ suspects and victims.
The policy — which, among other things, requires that cops address transgender people by their preferred pronouns and chosen names — comes with mandatory training for all officers who will have to know the difference between transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming.
The policies were announced Wednesday along with an awareness campaign about the state’s anti-discrimination law when it comes to sexual minorities applying for a job or renting an apartment, as well as a revised policy for how detention facilities deal with LGBTQ juveniles.
The LGBTQ Equality Directive is the most sweeping guidance by the Attorney General’s Office since Gurbir Grewal issued new rules governing police and jail interactions with federal immigration officials and immigrants.
The purpose of the immigration directive — which some critics have derided as obstructing federal immigration enforcement — was to ensure that immigrant communities did not fear working with police. An driving force behind this new directive are studies showing that transgender people tend to be uncomfortable turning to police for help and that transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people are more often victims of violence when incarcerated.
A recent study estimated that more than 30,100 adults in New Jersey identify as transgender while about 4,000 teenagers in the state identify as such.
“No one should be afraid about interacting with police because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity,” Grewal said Wednesday in a prepared statement. “That is why our law enforcement community, which proudly includes LGBTQ officers among our ranks, is committed to building trust with our LGBTQ residents.”
According to the LGBTQ Equality Directive:
— Cops cannot ask about a person’s sexual practices or anatomy unless it is necessary for an investigation.
— Cops cannot publicly reveal a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity unless there is a “proper law enforcement purpose” or the person agrees.
— Cops have to address people using their chosen names, even if those names are not on official records.
— Officials have to treat transgender people the way they would treat all men and women during body searches or when people are being segregated in jail.
— At police stations, officers have to accommodate a request by transgender, non-binary or gender non-comforming people to use private restrooms if one is available.
— Also at police stations, police cannot deny transgender people access to prosthetics, bras, wigs, undergarments, chest binders and cosmetic items.
The directive also governs police investigations, preventing cops from considering someone’s gender identity or expressions as ground for a reasonable suspicion or as evidence of wrongdoing.
Police, for example, would not be allowed to question or detain someone if he or she used a restroom that the officer knows was consistent with that person’s gender identity or expression.
Cops also would not be allowed to question or use “invasive search procedures” to determine a person’s genitals or assign gender.
The directive requires all 21 county prosecutors to educate the public about the directive and calls on all law enforcement agencies to work with LGBTQ organizations and community leaders “to maintain a dialogue about issues affecting transgender individuals.”
Jon Oliveira, director of communications and membership at Garden State Equality, said Wednesday that the "LGBTQ community and law enforcement have had a very troubled history dating back decades, with bar raids and violence."
"We get calls and stories all the time where New Jerseyans have had issues related to their sexual orientation or gender identity when they've come in contact with law enforcement," Oliveira said.
"Treating people with dignity and respect costs us nothing and it's the easiest thing we can do. New Jersey is a very progressive state, but that doesn't mean we can't be better, and we have hope that these kinds of policies will help improve the lives of LGBTQ New Jerseyans, specifically transgender people, and will also allow law enforcement to do their jobs better."
Regarding the state's anti-discrimination law, the Division on Civil Rights is releasing fact sheets on the law's application to sexual minorities.
Among the points being stressed:
— Employers cannot hire, fire or promote someone based on LGBTQ status or gender stereotypes.
— Landlords cannot refuse to rent or discriminate based on LGBTQ status.
— Places of public accommodation, such as schools and restaurants and doctor's offices, cannot refuse service or discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Discrimination would include refusing to address people by their chosen names or pronouns or blocking people from using an appropriate restroom or changing room.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.