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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 20, 2014

U.S. Attorney Offers Groundbreaking Training To Build Trust Between Law Enforcement And Transgender Community

SAN DIEGO – United States Attorney Laura Duffy, together with law enforcement partners and transgender leaders, will offer a groundbreaking training session today to promote respect and trust between officers and a transgender community that has faced discrimination, abuse and ridicule.

About 100 local police officers and Sheriff’s deputies as well as state and federal prosecutors, public defenders, federal agents and court staff are scheduled to take part in the first-of-its-kind event. The hour-long session is part of a Department of Justice training initiative launched in March that is designed to educate the nation’s law enforcement officers about problems and needs of transgender people and how to better serve them.

The training session is scheduled on this day to commemorate “International Transgender Day of Remembrance,” an annual event to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of fear or hatred of transgender people. The Day of Remembrance, which began as a tribute to murdered transgender activist Rita Hester, has become an empowering time to renounce the history of violence and discrimination perpetrated against the transgender community.

Every day, law enforcement personnel across the country encounter transgender individuals, including those who are victims of - or witnesses to - discrimination, abuse, hate crimes, intolerance and injustice. Yet many crimes involving transgender people often go unreported due to fear of marginalization, misunderstandings, harassment, and even assault. Because transgender individuals often feel re-victimized by the criminal justice system, they are reluctant to complain when hate crimes occur.

“Today’s training will help lay a stronger foundation of trust between the transgender community and those who are charged with the tremendous responsibility of protecting and serving,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Sometimes creating trust is as simple as using a person's preferred name, or gender pronoun, or asking for identification in a safe and respectful way. With better education, we can open minds. And with open minds, tensions and misperceptions start to fall away.”

This program is designed to teach officers the relevant terminology, pierce through stereotypes, improve interviewing skills, and reject the misconceptions that often drive the response to hate crimes.

According to recent studies, 78% of transgender individuals have been harassed at school, 41% have attempted suicide, and 26% have lost a job due to bias. Last year in Minnesota, a transgender woman lost her home and service dog due to alleged arson. In the 18 month period from January 2011- May 2012, approximately 18 transgender individuals were murdered in Puerto Rico. In Colorado a few years ago, the murder of a transgender woman became the first-ever transgender incident to result in a hate crimes conviction. And this year alone, violence against the transgender community has claimed the lives of 16 individuals nationally.

The Justice Department’s Community Relations Service unit, known as CRS, is in charge of the training program. CRS was created as part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a way to dial down desegregation tensions in the South. The Civil Rights Division protects gender identity and expression by investigating and prosecuting gender-identity motivated violence under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. CRS has responded to several incidents of hate violence in recent years, including in Puerto Rico, where 18 LGBT people were murdered between 2010 and 2012.

Today’s training program expands upon the work already accomplished in our proactive law enforcement community. To their credit, the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff have already developed “best practices” protocols.

*For an interview with U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, please contact Media Relations Director Kelly Thornton at 619-546-9726.

Updated July 23, 2015