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AG Directive Orders NJ Police to Properly Address Trans People

TRENTON-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, of Immigrant Trust Directive fame has come out with his latest directive to the police officers of New Jersey, this time, a set of guidelines on how to interact with LGBTQ people.

Grewal said New Jersey’s LBGTQ community has a basic underlying fear of police officers in New Jersey.  No such cases of LBGTQ incidents involving the police in New Jersey have been found through a search of newspapers.com and scouring newspaper articles from New Jersey’s major newspapers.

“A recent study estimated that over 1.4 million adults and over 150,000 juveniles across the United States identify as transgender.1 Unfortunately, transgender individuals regularly report that
they are somewhat or very uncomfortable asking the police for help when they need it,” Grewal said. “New Jersey’s law enforcement community, which proudly includes LGBTQ+ officers among our ranks, is deeply committed to changing that. After all, it is our shared responsibility as law enforcement officers to ensure the safety of all our residents. That is a difficult task that requires, among other things, building trust with marginalized communities so that everyone in New Jersey will feel comfortable approaching law enforcement, whether as a victim, a witness, or a member of the public, including in moments of crisis.”

The new order instructs that law enforcement officers shall not harass or discriminate against individuals based on their actual or perceived gender identity or expression and/or sexual orientation, including by using offensive or derogatory words to describe LGBTQ+ individuals.

Police officers should be able to identify transgender and non-binary individuals by their identification which would include an “X” as their sex, not “M” or “F”, according to the order.

Grewal, in his directive, acknowledges that the problem is not prevalent in New Jersey.

“In the vast majority of interactions between law enforcement and the general public, gender is irrelevant,” he said.

Officers should also never go on their initial instinct of that person’s perceived gender identity and they should use the proper pronouns to address the individuals including referring to them by their chosen names and not the legal names presented on their identification.

According to the directive, transgender individuals’ chosen names and pronouns are critical to their dignity and identity. Law enforcement officers, therefore, shall address individuals using their chosen names that reflect their gender identity—even if the name is not the one that is recognized on official legal records and even if that name changes over time—as well as their chosen pronouns;  Include chosen names and chosen pronouns in all relevant documentation, as discussed further in Appendix A to this Directive; and  Use chosen names and pronouns in any communications about that individual with members of the public, including with the press, except where doing so would disclose an individual’s LGBTQ+ status in violation of Part I.A.3, and except where necessary in legal filings and in communications about those filings.

The directive gets a little tricky when it comes to searches.

For the purpose of conducting a search, officers shall treat a transgender woman as they would treat any other woman, and officers shall treat a transgender man as they would
treat any other man, regardless of the gender that individual was assigned at birth and/or their anatomical characteristics.

For most searches, the gender of the person being searched will not be relevant because the search may be conducted by officers of any gender. That includes, but is not limited to, searches conducted under exigent circumstances—such as an immediate search in the field for weapons, when officer and public safety are paramount—and searches incident to arrest. Under this Provision, nothing will change for these kinds of searches: as before, a male officer can search a man or a woman (transgender or cisgender), and a female officer can search a man or a woman (transgender or cisgender).

But certain searches exist for which cross-gender searches are prohibited (e.g., non-exigent custodial strip searches) and where the gender of the person being searched thus matters. In those cases, where only a female officer can search a cisgender woman and only a male officer can search a cisgender man, then it is also the case that only a female officer can search a transgender woman and only a male officer can search a transgender man.

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