Chicago city council considers modified transgender protections ordinance


CHICAGO — Ald. Joe Moreno introduced an ordinance in the Chicago City Council Wednesday that would set specific guidelines for police to follow while handling transgender people.

“Basically, it is a human rights issue and we want everyone to be treated fairly,” said Moreno in a report about the ordinance last month. “We need our police officers to be trained to treat transgender people with dignity and respect.”

The ordinance is the culmination of years of work by transgender community activists.

At least four drafts of the ordinance, spearheaded by Moreno (1st Ward) and local LGBT rights activists, have been created since talks with police leaders began late last month. A “strong” version was introduced to the city council, said Moreno.

Specifically, the ordinance will address how police handle transgender individuals if arrested, how the police refer to transgender detainees and where they are held if taken into police custody, according to Moreno. Additionally, the implementation of such measures will be overseen by two existing city council committees.

“[Police] will have to report to two committees, Human Relations and Public Safety,” he said. “In other cities like D.C. where they’ve enacted these measures, there’s been no authority outside of the police department to make sure that they’re being implemented.”

Previous versions of the ordinance called for the creation of a Police Transgender Commission that would be composed of both police and LGBT community members. The new commission was removed as a “good compromise,” according to Moreno, who added that the same oversight from the transgender community is possible because the committee meetings are open to the public.

“It’s going to offer strong oversight,” Moreno said. “That’s really what we need is strong oversight so that all this stuff on paper gets done.”

The ordinance was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and the Human Relations Committee, and if approved, will be voted on in the full city council, and will then go to the desk of Mayor Rahm Emanuel where it is expected to be signed into law, according to Anthony Martinez, the executive director at The Civil Rights Agenda.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward) is a member of the Human Relations Committee and he supports the ordinance, said Moreno.

In addition, proponents of the ordinance had a constructive meeting with police leaders, who wanted to weigh in on the policy.

“Rightly so, [the police] don’t want to be told what to do,” he said. “We had a great meeting with them, but just like with everything else, if you don’t set deadlines, nothing will get done. But I look to partner with the police. I don’t see them as adversaries.”

The ordinance that was introduced may not be the same ordinance that is signed by the mayor, said TCRA’s policy advisor Rick Garcia.

“It takes some massaging and tweaking,” Garcia said.

Moreno agrees that most ordinances change as they are moved through city council committees.

“I’m very hopeful,” he said. “We’ve got some education to do out on this floor, but but I’m very hopeful. We’ll win. I don’t lose on these things.”

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