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Boston police adopts guidelines on how officers should treat transgender people

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
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BOSTON — Boston police have issued new guidelines on how officers should treat transgender people, a policy that one department official says is to ensure that everyone is treated with “respect and dignity.”

The policy unveiled Tuesday by Commissioner Ed Davis requires police to address transgender people by their chosen names, whether it’s their legally recognized name or not, and to use appropriate pronouns as chosen by the person.

The policy also gives transgender criminal suspects the right to request to be frisked by an officer whose gender is of their choosing, and the right to be transported alone and held in a cell alone whenever possible.

“Our main goal is that everyone should be treated equally, and everyone should be treated with respect and dignity, whether you’re at the front desk or on the other side of the front desk,” said Officer Javier Pagan, the department’s liaison to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communitie s.

The guidelines come five months after the department spent $20,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a transgender woman who was arrested for refusing to leave a women’s bathroom at a city homeless shelter in May 2010.

Brenda Wernikoff said she was forced to take off her top and officers refused to address her with feminine pronouns.

The rules are a “step in the right direction,” she said. “It shouldn’t have happened in the beginning and shouldn’t happen anymore.”

The rules have been in development for several years and are modeled after similar policies in other big-city departments, including Chicago and Washington, D.C., Pagan said.

“Situations like the one with Brenda do happen too often to our community,” said Jesse Begenyi, interim director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “Hopefully, policies like this will prevent these incidents from happening as frequently.

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