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Crime & Justice

LAPD announces new jail wing, guidelines for ‘respectful and courteous’ interaction with transgender people

A transgender prostitute is arrested by undercover LAPD officers.
A transgender prostitute is arrested by undercover LAPD officers.
File Photo: Paul Clinton -

Transgender people interacting with Los Angeles police officers are being guaranteed respectful treatment both on the streets and in the downtown jail, the LAPD announced Thursday.

Police officials hosted a community forum at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center at Ed Gould Plaza to say they have developed new guidelines for officers dealing with men and women who cross-dress and identify as a different gender. They also announced that an entire wing of the downtown Metropolitan Detention Center will be dedicated to transgender arrestees, helping to ensure the safety of those people while in custody.

“The new procedures are designed to promote greater understanding and ensure police contacts with the transgender community are professional, respectful and courteous,” the LAPD said in a statement.

Among the new procedures, officers must address transgender people by their preferred name and pronoun -- that is, “sir” if they identify as male, “ma’am” if female -- regardless of their given name and actual gender.

Officers are not allowed to frisk a person just to determine his or her real gender, they cannot remove wigs or makeup without good cause, and they are being educated on “the importance of not making the assumption a transgender person is involved in prostitution,” police said.

It is hoped the new guidelines will alter police officers’ behavior around transgender people in many subtle ways. For example, an officer might not try so hard to enlighten everybody as to a detainee’s true gender. (As happens in this video, where the officer helpfully notes, “Actually Scott’s a guy, did you know that?” It was kind of hard to miss.)

Chief Charlie Beck signed off on the new guidelines earlier this week. He did warn, however, that there would be some resistance at first amongst LAPD’s rank-and-file, and probably a few violations. But he promised to enforce the new rules and make sure all of his officers understood them and followed them.

Meanwhile, the creation of a new section of the Metropolitan Detention Center to detain transgender arrestees is being hailed as unprecedented -- not just for Los Angeles but for the entire United States. The wing, which is to be carved out of the women’s jail portion of MDC by the end of this month, will house as many as 24 transgender people at a time.

That will be an improvement for the safety of transgender arrestees, particularly cross-dressing men who till now have been detained with the male population, leaving them more vulnerable to attack.