Newark police offer protections for transgender suspects

transgender pride flag
transgender pride flag

Attorney General’s office is working on guidelines for the entire Garden State

 The Newark Police Department has updated its policies concerning transgender suspects. The policy, effective as of April 3, comes at a time when the Newark department is currently under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice for unconstitutional policing. Newark, the state’s largest city employs more than 1,000 police officers.

 “It’s long overdue” said Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose in an interview. “It’s something that will only help.”

 The Justice Department had found “anecdotal evidence” that Newark police showed prejudice against suspects based on gender identity or sexual orientation, with some officers having “mistaken assumption that all female transgender persons are prostitutes”. Currently, neither the Justice Department nor the state of New Jersey currently require departments to have a specific Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender policy in place. Neighboring West Orange Police recently began training its police officers on rules similar to those put into place by Newark and the attorney general’s office is currently at work on guidelines for the entire Garden State.

 One of the main rules in Newark is that if an officer arrests someone, they should not question that person’s gender identity. Other rules from the 10 pages released by the department are that officers can relegate someone’s legal name as an alias on an arrest report. Hypodermic needles may only be indicators of hormone therapy, and transgender suspects should be allowed to be held in a single-person cell. The updated rule book will also allow suspects to have a say in the gender of the officer searching them, officers shouldn’t ‘out’ a child to their parents unless it directly ties into why the child was detained.

 Kevin E. Taylor, a pastor, hosted several public meetings with the police department, with the specific challenges facing the LGBT community deserving its own policy, though it is illegal for a police office to show bias against any groups.

 “There are things on the books, and there are things that don’t necessarily play themselves out on the streets,” he said.

 The updated policy was reviewed by transgender rights group the National Center for Transgender Equality and LGBT advocacy group Garden State Equality. Both found that while the policy is a step in the right direction, the policy did not include protections for non-binary people, those who do not identify as either male or female. Newark officials are taking the critique under advisement and Taylor said he plans to host another public meeting in May.

 “The fact that they keep coming back to the table, and keep adding leaves to the table, is a really good sign,” Taylor said.

J.L. Gaynor
Out In Jersey magazine contributor J.L. Gaynor spent eight years in the newsrooms of two major New Jersey papers. A Jersey girl through and through: born, raised, and educated in New Jersey. Jen now lives in Maryland and has two dogs she adores, and reads just about anything she can get her hands on.