Just barely a week before New York City’s Pride festivities, the New York Police Department announced adjusted policies for their treatment of transgender New Yorkers. The NYPD had garnered a good deal of scrutiny and criticism following the arrest of Justin Adkins, an out Trans Man, in October of last year. Adkins had been participating in the “Occupy Wall Street” march on the Brooklyn Bridge, where he was arrested and, according to his statement, subsequently handcuffed to a rail in the only working bathroom and denied food and water, among several other horrifying forms of mistreatment. Adkins had identified himself as transgender from the moment of his arrest.
It appears the NYPD has taken the concerns of Justin Adkins and, undoubtedly, the many other transgender individuals to heart and devised an updated policy for the treatment of transgender individuals. According to the updated Patrol Guide, Police officers are required to address individuals by their gender presentation and orientation, regardless of a person’s designated sex on official documents. Any and all remarks about a person’s gender identity that are deemed discourteous and disrespectful are prohibited. Individuals are not to be subjected to personal searches that are aimed at determining one’s sex. If an individual must be searched, they have the right to choose the sex of the officer who will conduct the search. If this is not possible, they are entitled to a written explanation.
If a transgender person to be held in custody, they will be held in sex-segregated facilities in accordance with that person’s gender identity and expression. If this poses a concern for the person’s safety, they are to be treated as “special-category prisoner”, but cannot be cuffed to chairs, bars or rails for unreasonable period of times.
The NYPD and Anti-Violence Project both admit that there is much work to be done, and that effective implementation will be the first hurdle. However, this is a huge step for the safety and respect of transgender individuals and cannot be overlooked. Transgender individuals definitively now know their own rights and demand them. The education on transgender issues must continue, as it will serve to hopefully lessen the rate of experiences like Justin Adkins’, but it appears the system is taking some of this into their own hands.
Forty-three years after the Stonewall Riots, shortly before the weekend of 2012 Pride in New York, we see the fight for the equal and respectful treatment of all people continue. This time, however, it appears we can count it as a victory.