PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Police Advisory Review Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a policy for interacting with transgender individuals.
The purpose of this policy and procedure statement is to establish guidelines for the appropriate conduct of interactions with transgender individuals who come into contact with and/or require the services of the Pittsfield Police Department.
“This really is important in the LGBTQ-plus community to feel that they will be treated with respect and dignity and not traumatized,” board member Drew Herzig said. “A lot of transgender people don’t go to doctor’s offices, they are afraid of falling into the hands of any sort of bureaucracy where they will be ridiculed, misgendered, that sort of thing.”
Herzig and Police Chief Michael Wynn collaborated to create this policy, which will get a final once over by Wynn. Some imperative themes covered in the document are gender expression, adopted names, non-removal of gender-confirming items, and detainees being held in a cell corresponding with their gender expression.
Wynn noted that “it was all [Herzig]” who did the work on the policy.
“It is the policy of the Department to interact with the transgender community in a manner that is professional, respectful, and courteous,” the language states. “Additionally, it is the Department’s policy to handle transgender arrestees in a manner that ensures they are processed and housed safely and efficiently to the greatest extent possible. Personnel of this department will not engage in activity that will embarrass, humiliate or otherwise shame transgender individuals.”
Definitions for terminology such as gender, sex, gender identity, and gender expression are included in the policy to provide preliminary education for police staff. It also highlights the term “adopted name,” which is a non-birth name that transgender individuals use in self-reference.
Officers are instructed to address transgender individuals by their adopted name, even if the person has not received legal recognition of the adopted name, and include the adopted name in the person’s booking either under the primary name or as the “also known as” (aka) name.
“Be aware that the use of an adopted name does not automatically equate to an attempt to hide one’s legal identity or that the individual is misrepresenting his or herself,” the policy clarifies.
When a transgender individual is being searched, it states that the search should be conducted by an officer of the sex whom the transgender individual represents. If uncertain about the subject’s gender expression, officers are instructed to respectfully and politely ask the individual’s preference in the gender of the searching officer.
An important part of the policy outlines the conditions in which a transgender individual is booked for detainment. Clothing, wigs, hairpieces, makeup, or other items are not to be removed before booking. If an officer has a reasonable suspicion to believe that the detainee may be hiding contraband or a weapon under a wig, the wig may be briefly removed for the purpose of conducting a search for those items.
For safety, the document states that transgender detainees shall be held in a cell alone whenever possible, and post-booking, they shall be placed into a cell corresponding with his or her gender expression.
Herzig said they removed any language that said transgender individuals have to provide proof of being transgender beyond just announcing it.
With this policy, he hopes that transgender individuals will be able to access the Police Department without being traumatized in the process.