Transgender Atlantans are safe from Peggy Denby. Now, their sometimes troubled interactions with Atlanta police are being addressed too through a series of new policies guiding officers.
It's further proof that the agency is far removed, even reformed, from the days of rogue, anti-gay cops raiding the Eagle. And that's exactly the point.
“This important policy is a formal recognition that this community will be entitled to the same level of respect, courtesy and professionalism extended to all citizens with whom our officers interact,” Atlanta police Chief George Turner said in a prepared statement. “We live in a diverse, major metropolitan city and our policies must reflect the need to embrace, and work cooperatively with, every citizen we serve within that broad community.”
Atlanta police announced the new policies in early October, just days before a contingent of LGBT officers again marched in the Pride parade. The policies take effect Nov. 30 after the agency's two LGBT liaison officers finish training colleagues on the new measures.
“We already have these policies as best practices. Before [Nov. 30] these were taught what officers should do, now it’s part of the SOP and it what officers shall do. We moved these practices from being a good idea to what you have to do,” [LGBT liaison and Senior Patrol Officer Brian] Sharp explained. And, should an officer violate any of the trans SOP, they will be disciplined, he added.
The new Standard Operating Procedure regulates how officers interact with trans people during stops, searches and arrests. Highlights include:
• Treating transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming individuals in a manner appropriate to the individual’s gender identity, which may be different from the sex that the individual was assigned at birth or listed on their official government-issued identification.
• Using pronouns that match the gender identity of the individual (e.g., “she, her, hers” for an individual whose gender identity is female; “he, him, his” for an individual whose gender identity is male).
• Regardless of the individual’s public appearance, classify an individual’s gender identity in accordance with statements or requests made by the individual. For example, an employee will correct his or her initial assumption about an individual’s gender identity if the individual asks the employee to use different pronouns.
• When requested, address transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming individuals by their chosen name rather than the name which is on their government-issued identification.
• Employees searching or arresting a transgender, intersex or gender nonconforming individual, or performing similar official actions or duties (excluding preparation of written documents) in connection with a transgender, intersex or gender nonconforming individual, shall deem the individual’s gender to be male or female based upon the individual’s gender identity.
• Employees making transport decisions regarding a transgender, intersex or gender nonconforming individual shall deem the individual’s gender to be male or female based upon the individual’s gender identity.
Mayor Kasim Reed said the new policies show the city's efforts to “celebrate diversity.” Last week, Atlanta received a perfect score on HRC's Municipal Equality Index, in part based on how its police department interacts with LGBT people.
“The adoption of this policy is another step forward in our efforts to celebrate diversity,” Reed said in a press release. “I commend the Atlanta Police Department for their commitment to equal and respectful treatment of Atlanta’s transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming individuals, citizens and visitors.”