Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are incorporating LGBTQ training within their departments after pressure from social activists.
California and New Jersey are two states, according to NBC News, that mandated LGBTQ “sensitivity, diversity and specialization training” within their law enforcements.
The mandates were based on recommendations from the Williams’ Institute, an LGBTQ think tank that recently documented cases of alleged discrimination and harassment between law enforcement and LGBTQ people.
One survey by the institute found that nearly half of respondents – LGBTQ victims of violence – said they experienced police misconduct within the last year.
Police departments are now trying to repair their image with the LGBTQ community, who have recently banned uniformed police officers from attending Pride marches.
Several police departments in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston and Washington D.C. proactively decided to offer some LGBTQ training to officers.
For example, The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington – the nation’s sixth largest police department – was one of the first agencies to implement the training, which began in 2000. The program’s curriculum was then expanded in 2015.
Sgt. Nicole Brown, a supervisor for the department’s LGBT liaison unit for the past three years, said the department broke ground in offering such training.
Brown regularly trains officers in intensive courses on how to investigate suspected anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, or how to use the correct pronouns for transgender people.
Part of the training involves meeting LGBT members of the community and building a relationship with them.
“When officers come over to our unit, they get a chance to meet members of the LGBT community and hear their stories. They meet different community leaders that we interact with daily, then they go back to their respective districts and share what they’ve learned with their colleagues,” she said.
Localities such as Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Grand Forks, North Dakota have just recently started to incorporate this type of training.
Officials in Grand Rapids approved the training for both city police and fire fighters at a cost of $20,000 dollars.
This pilot program teaches best practices in de-escalation for LGBTQ individuals, as well as such concepts as “microaggressions” and “misgendering.” The department is also creating “Safe Places,” an idea formed in Seattle in 2015, that offers a neutral place for LGBTQ individuals to report hate crimes to police without having to visit the police department.
Other departments, such as the Palo Alto Police Department, have been forced by a court order to implement LGBTQ-awareness training after lawsuits were filed against officers for excessive force and targeting based on one’s sexuality.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, around 1,000 officers in California have signed up for online training, with 2,000 participating in person.
Still, some members of the LGBTQ community are not satisfied with reform.
Marti Gould Cummings, a former New York City Council candidate who uses gender-neutral pronouns, wants a complete overhaul of the system.
“We need to take from the inflated police budget and put funding back into violence interrupters and harm reduction efforts in the community,” they said. “Across the board systemic racism and homophobia is in play within policing, so it goes beyond training and budget. This has been going on since the beginning of our country.”