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BART police implement policy governing interactions with transgender individuals

Transgender Law Center calls move important first step in preventing harassment of people 'who are just trying to go about their day'

BART police have become one of the first police departments in the country to implement a specific policy governing interactions with transgender individuals.

No specific problem or complaint spurred the creation of the new policy, but police officials decided to create the policy in an effort to strengthen the department's relationship with the community, according to BART.

The policy mandates that police officers be trained in how to address people whose gender identity or expression is different than that assigned to them at birth.

Officers will be instructed to follow the policy if a person informs police directly that they are transgender or if the officer has good reason to believe based on observation that the person is transgender.

The officers are instructed not to question the person's identity or ask about their transition status without a professional and articulable reason, which must be documented in writing.

If an officer is unsure how to address a transgender person, they are to politely ask what name and pronoun the person prefers. Officers are instructed to use that name regardless of whether it is the person's legal name. If an officer must find out their legal name, they are instructed to pull the person aside to ask one-on-one if possible.

When arresting transgender individuals, officers must give them any special medical treatment necessary, including hormone therapy, and not remove wigs, makeup or prosthetics they are wearing without a compelling reason to do so.

Above all, the policy calls for officers "to interact with transgender people and the transgender community in a manner that is professional, respectful, and courteous."

BART officials said few departments in the country have taken the step of having a specific policy for interacting with transgender individuals.

"This policy is a reflection of our commitment to the community policing philosophy," BART police Chief Kenton Rainey said in a statement.

"Taking the time to involve our community stakeholders in this process only serves to strengthen our partnerships with various diverse communities we serve."

Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center, called the new policy as an important first step in preventing the "harassment, abuse, targeting, and criminalization of transgender people who are just trying to go about their day."

Hayashi said transgender individuals face high rates of incarceration and harassment, particularly for people who are both transgender and of a racial minority.

"A full 47% of black transgender and gender nonconforming people have experienced incarceration at some point in their lives, and too many have been outright murdered," Hayashi said.

"As we have seen time and time again it is dangerous when police don't know how to interact with and respect the needs of a community."

— Bay City News Service

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