According to the Human Rights Campaign annual report, at least 32 transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) people have been killed in the United States in 2022. They also cite that 15 trans people have been killed by police or while incarcerated in jails, prisons, or detention centers. Police contact with transgender and gender non-conforming individuals is often more frequent than many people realize. TGNC individuals are more likely to interact with police because they are more likely to be victims of violent crime due to housing, financial, and education status. Many transgender and nonconforming people are also often arrested simply for being out in public while being transgender.
In a recent national survey done tasked by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, it was identified that at least 54% of the respondents reported that they had interacted with law enforcement as a transgender or gender non-conforming person. When they were asked about their experience, at least 68% of them stated that police encounters were “handled with respect” and at least 30% of respondents suggested that “officers generally treated [them] with disrespect.” As expected, race has a larger impact on any interaction with the police as Black and brown bodies have historically and contemporarily had violent and fatal encounters with the police. White respondents reported, “respectful treatment” at a higher level than their peers who identify as people of color.
All transgender and non-conforming individuals are subject to high levels of police harassment and abuse. A significant number of transgender and gender non-conforming people have been stopped, imprisoned, and detained just for being transgender or non-conforming. About fifty percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people feel uncomfortable calling the police for assistance when needed due to police harassment and violence. Only one-third are comfortable contacting the police for assistance. Due to the higher-than-average rates of harassment and violence that transgender and gender non-conforming persons suffer, many feel unable to access one of the most important resources that society provides to protect individuals in times of need.
The approach of police departments have towards transgender and gender non-conforming individuals must be addressed. Both new and veteran police officers should receive comprehensive training on how to treat and engage with transgender and gender non-conforming people with respect, regardless of whether they are seeking aid or are being detained. To continue and reinforce the effect of training, police departments should require documented policies about respectful treatment, arrest procedures, and home placement, so that all officers are familiar with the required protocols or can review them as needed. Officers who violate these principles or otherwise engage in disrespectful or aggressive behavior shall be subject to disciplinary action, including termination when appropriate. The department's leadership should foster a culture of appreciation for diversity, inclusive of transgender and non-conforming individuals.