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The Baltimore Police Department routinely mistreated and harassed transgender people, confirming what many in the community have been reporting for years, according to a Justice Department report highlighted by the Baltimore City Paper.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) after Freddie Gray died in police custody 14 months ago. The findings were released in an August 10 report which concluded that the BPD engaged in unconstitutional stop and frisks, racially-biased policing, and use of excessive force, which are enabled by “systemic deficiencies” and lack of accountability. During the investigation, there were “allegations of BPD officers’ mistreatment of transgender individuals” and “concerns that BPD’s interactions with transgender individuals reflect underlying unlawful gender bias.”
Baltimore City Paper highlighted the importance of the findings and confirmation of BPD’s anti-transgender bias in an August 11 blog post. In the report, members of the transgender community described a pattern of dehumanizing and degrading interactions with the BPD, including inappropriate searches. For example, during a traffic stop a trans woman was intentionally misgendered by an officer:
Specifically, it details a December 2015 traffic stop wherein a transgender woman was misgendered and then harassed in police custody. During the stop, she was asked about her pronoun and told the officer that her pronoun was "she," and the officer still referred to her as "him." When this woman arrived at intake the report goes on, a supervisor (who was a woman) said, "I am not here for this shit. I am not searching that." When the woman objected to be talked to like that, the supervisor told her, "like I said, I don’t know you. I don’t know if you’re a boy or a girl. And I really don’t care, I am not searching you."
City Paper goes on to explain that the DOJ report is especially important for LGBT people because it confirms the reports and anecdotal evidence of targeted policing, particularly of trans women of color:
What the DOJ report does not mention but is frequently mentioned by the trans community is the amount of searches performed by police simply because someone is trans, especially a trans woman, and even more so if they are a trans woman of color. Moreover, there is a particular kind of harassment by police endured by trans sex workers or even those assumed to be sex workers, which it seems, is any trans woman the police decide could be a sex worker. Being trans appears to be enough evidence that you should be searched and often, possessing condoms and being trans is enough to get you arrested, as many publications have reported over the years.
The DOJ's look at how the Baltimore Police consistently mistreats the trans community is vital. It is also, like most of the DOJ report, nothing new to those enduring police abuse and harassment. What was well-known within the LGBTQ community and what has been an impossible-to-ignore accumulation of anecdotes ABOUT this kind of police misconduct is now even more clear thanks to the DOJ report.