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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 4 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 14
DOJ announces new Trans education program
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DOJ announces new Trans education program

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced a new program to train local police departments to understand and deal effectively with Transgender issues.

'It's clear that such a training is as necessary as it is overdue,' Associate Attorney General Tony West said in a March 27 statement. 'Because too often, in too many places, we know that transgender victims are discouraged from reporting hate crimes and hate violence due to their past negative interactions with and perceptions of law enforcement.'

The program will be administered by DOJ's Community Relations Service, which works to prevent and respond to hate crimes. Lesson plans include suggestions for addressing school bullying, and lists of do's and don'ts, with don'ts including using terms like 'transvestite' and asking whether a Transgender person has had 'sex reassignment' or 'sex change' surgery.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that 'the [Transgender] community's fears about law enforcement's support and perceptions' prevent them from reporting acts of anti-Transgender violence, a situation he described as unacceptable.

'This is not a result that can or will be tolerated by the Department of Justice, and it runs counter to the very role your community public safety officials want to promote,' he added.

Seattle Police Department (SPD) spokesperson Mark Jamieson said he was not aware of any Justice Department outreach to SPD in regards to the new program.

Asked how he would evaluate SPD's relationship with the local Trans community, Jamieson said 'we're good with the meetings and exchanging information, but could we improve? Yes.'

'There have been reports in the media,' Jamieson told SGN, 'of people who stated they were victimized, but they didn't feel comfortable calling the police. That's troubling to me. We've got a relationship with the community, but it could be improved.'

Unfortunately, SPD's experience is right in line with national trends. While Transgender people are at far greater risk of assault, with an astonishing 61% reporting that they had been victims of physical violence, many also say they are reluctant to report crimes to the police.

'Cops will deal with Trans folks and assume because you're Trans, then in some kind of way you've caused this kind of violence on you,' said GLAAD spokesperson Tiq Milan.

Veteran Seattle activist Marsha Botzer, founder of Ingersoll Gender Center, expressed both 'great appreciation for the interest in building this training' and reservations about whether it would have a lasting effect.

'What I want is that we create a training that lasts and is vibrant, alive to the changes that develop in the community,' Botzer told SGN. 'For years I have worked on trainings for police and other systems, and my one great objective is this:

'The information must really be used and must last, not just as a special one-time training that fades with a change of personnel or leadership, or lasts for just one season or year, but as a dynamic process that continues on in formal written policy with ongoing training that is reviewed regularly for effectiveness.

'Any process must address understanding of what Transgender issues really are (and are not), abolish irrational fears, and place at the heart of any interaction a clear knowledge that a Transgender individual is first, foremost, and always, a person and a human being worthy of fair and equal treatment,' she told SGN.

Harper Jean Tobin, policy director at the National Center for Transgender Equality, helped to design the DOJ program, but said there is still more work that will need to be done in order to fix the problems between Transgender people and America's police departments.

'You can't train your way out of this problem. It's one piece of the puzzle. It's one tool that we can use,' she said.

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