NJ police to get new training on interacting with transgender people

New guidelines issued by the Attorney General instruct officers to treat transgender individuals consistent with how they identify

Joe Atmonavage
NJ Advance Media Group

TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Attorney General issued a statewide directive Wednesday requiring all law enforcement officers to treat transgender individuals in a manner consistent with how they identify, regardless of their birth gender or what is listed on their official identification.

The “LGBTQ Equality Directive” is designed to ensure that individuals are treated fairly and equally in their encounters with law enforcement, “regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office announced.

“The emphasis on respectful communication, respecting gender pronouns and respecting gender identity, that is a paramount concern for folks,” Grewal said in an interview Wednesday.

“We have been committed to bridging divides between communities and law enforcement wherever they may exist,” he said.

The directive has provisions to ensure officers respectfully communicate with transgender individuals, while also outlining protocols of how searches should be conducted and where individuals should be detained in police stations. It also provides a list of defined terms law enforcement officers should be familiar with, like “chosen pronouns” and “gender non-conforming.”

The directive also requires law all state law enforcement agencies to undergo training and build relationships with the LGBTQ community.

“We are endlessly grateful to Gov. (Phil) Murphy and Attorney General Grewal for swiftly and decisively implementing policy changes,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director for Garden State Equality.

The directive was announced Wednesday in conjunction with the release of a report by the state’s Transgender Equality Task Force, which recommended Grewal’s office develop and issue “guidelines ensuring respectful, non-discriminatory treatment of transgender people by all state law enforcement agencies.”

“Unfortunately, transgender individuals regularly report that they are somewhat or very uncomfortable asking the police for help when they need it,” the directive says.

In order to address that, the directive emphasizes that LGBTQ individuals, including transgender persons, should be treated with “dignity and respect” and enjoy the same protections under the law, “like all other people.”

The directive says the general rule is “simple:” Officers should treat the person in accordance with their gender identity, regardless of their gender at birth.

Grewal also said law enforcement departments across the state had asked to be trained on the issues addressed in the directive.

“This was an issue that they wanted to make sure they got right,” Grewal said. “We started to hear from our county prosecutors that this was something that they needed guidance on to make sure we are treating everyone fairly, respectfully and doing things the right way.”

The directive highlights how a variety of interactions should be handled.

The directive mandates that the gender of the searching officer matches the gender that the suspect identifies as. When holding areas in a police station are segregated by gender, the person should be detained with those in line with their gender identity or expression, according to the directive.

For individuals who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming, the directive says officers should ask the person’s preference as to who should search the suspect.

The Attorney General Office’s Division of Criminal Justice is tasked with developing a training program to explain the requirements by March 1, 2020. All law enforcement agencies in the state must provide training regarding the directive by June.

“This new law enforcement directive will ensure that all of our officers in New Jersey have the training they need to be able to interact and carry out their duties with members of the LGBTQ community in a manner that will promote respect and safety for civilians and officers alike,” Veronica Allende, the director of the Division of Criminal Justice, said in a statement.

In addition to the directive, Grewal announced a public awareness campaign by the Division on Civil Rights to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community and expanded policy by the Juvenile Justice Commission designed to ensure that staff provide fair and equal treatment to all juveniles.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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