LGBT & HIV Advocates Welcome Recommendations of Obama Policing Task Force

Following the release of the Final Report of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, SAS joins several other LGBT and HIV advocacy organizations in issuing this joint statement:

The recommendations made by the Task Force to the President represent an important first step toward addressing the epidemic of police violence and widespread and pervasive discriminatory policing practices across the country. While much more remains to be done, we urge the Administration to adopt the recommendations of the Task Force in full and move swiftly toward effective implementation, including through the promulgation of model policies and new federal grant requirements. We also welcome the recommendations released earlier this week by the President’s Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group, which identify important first steps toward rolling back the militarization of policing.

Recognizing that LGBTQ people are also members of communities of color, low income communities, and immigrant communities who are all too often targets of excessive and deadly force, racial profiling, and other forms of discriminatory policing, we welcome the Task Force’s recommendations calling for the creation of a national Crime and Justice Task Force to examine comprehensive criminal justice reform, development of strong policies governing the use of force and mandating independent prosecutors in cases of death in custody, an end to involvement of local law enforcement in enforcement of federal immigration laws, regulation of consent searches, development, in collaboration with communities, of policies with strong privacy protections and evaluation procedures for the use of body worn cameras and other technologies, and policies aimed at stemming the school to prison pipeline.

We are particularly supportive of the report’s recommendations, consistent with those made in submissions to the Task Force endorsed by over 45 LGBTQ organizations, encouraging local police departments to:

  • adopt comprehensive policies banning police profiling, including profiling based on sexual orientation and gender identity and possession of condoms as evidence of intent to engage in prostitution-related offenses,
  • develop policies with respect to interactions, arrest processing, searches and housing of LGBT people, and
  • ensure effective policies to address sexual harassment and assault of members of the public by police officers.

We urge the Department of Justice to work with LGBTQ organizations who have successfully advocated for effective policies at the local level to move swiftly to issue model standards and training in each of these critical areas so they can be adopted by local law enforcement agencies.

Consistent with the Task Force’s recommendations, we also call on the Administration to condition federal funding on adoption and enforcement of these important benchmarks of nondiscriminatory and constitutional policing.

Recognizing that LGBTQ people of color experience both similar forms of racial profiling as other members of communities of color as well as gender and sexuality specific forms of discriminatory policing, we also call on Congress to pass a comprehensive End Racial Profiling Act which would ban profiling based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation as a means of implementing the Task Force’s recommendations with respect to profiling policies.

Using condoms as evidence of criminal conduct further exposes communities that have historically been both hard-hit by HIV and subjected to intense police profiling.  The practice of citing possession or presence of condoms as evidence of intent to engage in prostitution-related offenses disproportionately affects women of color, and particularly transgender women of color, as well as LGBTQ youth of color who are routinely targeted by police. We are glad that the Task Force has heard our community and is recommending that this practice be eliminated.

Without clear policies ensuring respect for gender identity and the rights of LGBTQ people during police interactions and arrest processing, the people we serve experience danger and frequent violations of their constitutional rights while in police custody. Additionally, all too often members of our community are also denied HIV medicines and other critical medications while in custody. We look forward to working with the DOJ to establish model policies for local law enforcement to ensure that LGBT people and people living with HIV are treated with dignity and receive medically necessary treatment in police custody.

Finally, we welcome the Task Force’s recommendations with respect to data collection on all detentions by local law enforcement agencies, and caution that law enforcement agents should never be charged with collecting information on the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of individuals with whom they come into contact.

We therefore applaud the Task Force’s recommendations that information regarding sexual harassment and assault by police officers, as well as LGBTQ people’s experiences of policing, be captured through anonymous, voluntary and independent surveys such as the Bureau of Justice Statistics Police Public Contact Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. We look forward to working with the Department of Justice in development of voluntary surveys for administration by local authorities to ensure that LGBTQ people’s experiences of policing are captured.

The opportunity for LGBT advocacy organizations to present recommendations to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has been critical, but without timely implementation of these recommendations, LGBTQ people and people living with HIV (PLWH), and particularly LGBTQ people and PLWH of color, will continue to experience discrimination and abuse at every level of the criminal justice system.

We look forward to continuing our work with our sister LGBT organizations, other civil rights groups, and the Obama Administration to make sure that these changes are implemented.

To view the full final report and read key recommendations addressing LGBT experiences of policing in the Task Force report, click here.