Team 12 Investigates: Misgendered

The NYPD is taking steps to repair the strained relationship that the transgender community says has caused hesitation in engaging with police after decades of mistreatment.

News 12 Staff

Oct 31, 2020, 1:03 AM

Updated 1,305 days ago


The NYPD is taking steps to repair the strained relationship that the transgender community says has caused hesitation in engaging with police after decades of mistreatment. 
“The police were so rude, so disrespectful,” says Marcie Chase. Chase recalls her experience with police in 2015, during a time she tells News 12 she needed them the most. 
Chase says a man attacked her with a broken beer bottle and left her injured. Although her physical wounds have healed, she says emotionally the encounter has left her traumatized.
“You are supposed to protect me,” said Chase. However, Chase is not alone. In July, Ace Cardona ran into a different problem while filing a report. 
“I let them know look, it’s not appropriate, I’m trans. I go by he and him,” said Cardona. 
The 24-year-old says he was misgendered by the police. The trans community says negative experiences like these can be dangerous. 
Detective Carl Locke, the NYPD’s LGBTQ Liaison, says the under-reporting of crimes is a challenge that the department is working on. 
“Fifty percent of the crime victims in New York City who are LGBTQ don’t report to the police and the overall reason is fear of being made fun of or fear that the police are not going to treat them with respect,” said Locke. 
In 2020, the NYPD has reported six anti-Transgender crimes--while there were 11 in the same time period last year. However, advocates believe the data doesn’t tell the full story. 
Eliel Cruz of New York City Anti-Violence Project says most members of the LGBTQ+ community will not feel comfortable enough to ever file an official police report but will report it to local advocacy groups. 
He tells News 12 that violence against trans people has spiked in 2020, with 33 trans and gender non-conforming people killed nationwide. Cruz says this is the highest amount of deaths recorded in more than 20 years--half of those killed were Black trans women. 
“They’re the most impacted by homicidal violence, which is a combination of misogyny, of transphobia, of anti-Blackness really manifesting in really deadly consequences,” said Cruz. 
Tiffany Harris, 33, was one of those victims. She was stabbed to death in a Jerome Avenue apartment building on July 26. 
“She was very sweet and kind. She was like a warming, mother type, you know. She always made me feel okay whenever I was down and out, “ said Rihanna Gonzalez. 
Gonzalez, who knew Harris well, was upset to learn that the NYPD initially “deadnamed” her. 
Deadnaming is a term used to describe identifying a transgender person by the name given at birth and no longer using upon transitioning. This is an act the trans community says further complicates their relationship with police. 
Some say they still question if the NYPD is doing enough to resolve issues of under-reporting and deadnaming. 
Detective Locke tells News 12 the department implemented the gender identity and expression guide in the year 2012, which breaks down how officers should interact with the LGBTQ+ community. 
 "If they have a preferred gender and they tell you, you must use that when you refer to them. we've told people if you're going to make an arrest, if the person identifies as a female, a female will search that person, if they identify as male, a male will search that person,” said Locke. 
He also says new recruits are trained in the academy and refresher courses are given throughout a member’s career. 
Police say they rely on legal identification like a driver’s license, but that it gets complicated when a victim is not alive or present to identify their identity or preferred name. Locke admits that they haven’t always got it right and believe officers need better guidance. 
He says he is working to update the guide and training on these issues. Sasha Alexander with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a legal aid organization fighting against trans discrimination, says family is not always a good resource. 
 "A lot of our families are not necessarily the most affirming. So, like for our families, they're going to be fine with deadnaming because they might deadname us and they're going to be fine with misnaming us because they probably misname us,” said Alexander. 
Members of the TGNCI community say they are glad to see some progress and believe it’s the right time to have this conversation. 
It’s been five years since Chase was attacked, but she says she hopes it won’t take the NYPD as long to repair its relationship with the community. 
"We enjoy those piece meals but there's still fallouts that we need to get to that because the chain is only as strong as the weakest link,” said Chase.
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