The Metropolitan Police Department recently introduced a new category for transgender victims on their website’s unsolved homicide flyers page, one of the many steps the department is taking to improve relations with the city’s LGBT community.
The category titled Transgender Victims was introduced in preparation for last month’s town hall meeting between MPD and members of the LGBT community, organized in part by the DC Trans Coalition.
Transgender advocates and allies say the step is meaningful, but not enough.
“Acknowledging that these victims were trans women of color is a necessary first step, but by itself is insufficient,” said RJ Nickels, member of DCTC. “More work is needed to repair the broken relationship between the trans and broader LGBTQ community and MPD.”
MPD spokesperson Gwen Crump said this new category is one of the efforts put forth by MPD to help identify hate bias in crimes against transgender victims.
Between 2000 and 2013, there have been 11 homicides involving transgender individuals in D.C. Six of these murders remain unsolved.
On its website, MPD lists transgender victims by their legal name and displays the name they identified themselves with as a pseudonym or (AKA). Members of the LGBT community opposes this naming structure, said Paul Tupper, chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence.
“These flyers should really represent the persons identity at the time of their death,” said Tupper. “Laws protecting one’s gender identity or expression does not end when the person passes away or dies.”
Crump said MPD mainly takes into consideration what name would be most helpful towards each case and which would encourage a wider response from the community.
During a town hall meeting last month, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, along with high-level police officials including a captain and sergeant from the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), discussed the results of a report by a Hate Crime Assessment Task Force (HCATF) led by the Anti-Defamation League.
This task force was summoned by Chief Lanier in 2011 when she wanted an evaluation on MPD relations with the LGBT community, so they can begin improving the bad reputation MPD has gained when dealing with transgender victims.
On Aug. 26, 2011, Kenneth Furr, an off duty police officer shot at a group of three trans women and two men. Three of them ended up in the hospital. According to a 2011 report by DCTC, Furr had solicited sex from one of the transgender woman earlier that day at a CVS pharmacy. The report states that when the trans woman refused, Furr flashed his gun at her, and that an MPD officer at the CVS took no action against Furr, even though Furr was “visibly drunk and violent.”
The 41 page report by the HCATF was released on February 26 of this year, and looks into security and safety issues among the district’s LGBT community, and the MPD’s commitment and interaction with them. The task force looked at LGBT and police relations between April 2012 and Sept. 2013, and came up with several recommendation to increase trust and response to hate crimes.
“With the exception of GLLU officers, most transgender people do not trust the police and believe that MPD officers too frequently see them as criminals because they are transgender,” the report states.
A section of the report addresses prostitution free zones (PFZs) and decriminalizing sex work.
Richard J. Rosenthall, President of the the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) says these PFZs facilitate police profiling of transgender people.
“We understand that police have a job to do, but they must do it in a constitutional manner, as they themselves recognize,” said Rosenthall.
In 2011, just 12 weeks before she was killed in an alley off the 6100 Block of Dix Street Northeast, LaShay McLean‘s felony charge of soliciting an undercover cop during a sting operation in Northeast D.C. in 2008 was dismissed.
According to court documents McLean was ordered to eight sessions of a court diversion program operated by the local Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS).
McLean was 23, a transgender woman from the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast D.C., when, weeks later, she was approached by two men. According to a statement by the DCTC, McLean and another transgender person with her were asked for money by two men, then McLean was shot. Her friend escaped.
No arrests have been made.
Sgt. Brett Parson, head of MPD’s GLUU, spoke at the vigil and said he understood that the frustration was not just that McLean was gunned down senselessly, but that she was forced to be in a place and time “ripe for victimization,” and that those circumstances have to change, according to The Washington Blade’s coverage of the vigil.
MPD’s posters for transgender homicide victims are below.