Chicago — The Chicago Police Department has enacted a general order that mandates protections for transgender people while in the custody of police and requires officers to be trained for the respectful treatment of transgender detainees.
The policy came without formal announcement from the police, but was commended in a news release on Tuesday from The Civil Rights Agenda, an LGBT rights advocacy group.
The general order, which went into effect Aug. 22, comes after more than two years of advocacy around the issue by dozens of groups led by the Lakeview Action Coalition working with CPD and recent pushes for a transgender protections ordinance in the Chicago City Council.
Jennifer Ritter, executive director of LAC said the organization would remain vigilant as conversations continue with police and the mayor’s office.
“Creating a general order has always been the first step,” Ritter said. “There are improvements in the general order, but it is by far from ideal.”
Discussions among LAC, police and the mayor have been ongoing throughout the summer, but the police did not notify the LAC of any plans to sign and release the general order, according to Ritter.
Immediate reactions from the LGBT community suggest the general order is simply a starting point for further progress.
“This is a great first step,” said Rick Garcia, policy advisor for TCRA. “But it is just the first step. There is now a lot of training that has to be done, and we want to ensure that implementation is carried out so that every officer is aware of these new policies.”
Christina Kahrl, a board member at Equality Illinois who was also involved in talks with the city, expressed a similar reaction.
“This is progress to be sure,” Kahrl said in a statement from Equality Illinois. “This is one of the first times the police department worked with community groups to create policy. That is a huge step in the history of the city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department.”
The policy, signed by CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy, sets specific principles for officers to follow, including treating individuals in a manner appropriate to their self-indentified gender expression, use of pronouns as established by the individual — pushing officers to ask for clarification — and use of a person’s name based on their gender identity instead of government-issued identification.
Officers will “…treat all persons with the courtesy and dignity which is inherently due every person as a human being. Department members will act, speak, and conduct themselves in a professional manner, recognizing their obligation to safeguard life and property, and maintain a courteous, professional attitude in all contacts with the public,” as stated in the language of the general order.
It also prohibits officers from strip-searching individuals to determine their gender identity or call attention to their gender expression, use derogatory language aimed at the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, consider a person’s gender expression as reason to believe they engage in crime or from disclosing a detainees gender identity or expression to other detainees.