The Chicago Police Treatment of Transgender Individuals ordinance has been significantly weakened since its introduction March 14, leading Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the Center on Halsted to pull their support for the proposed legislation.
The initial version of this legislation would have created the Police Transgender Issues Commission, a supervising committee developing training for handling transgender people. The commission would have been composed of five Chicago Police officers and six transgender Chicagoans or people who work for LGBT organizations. They would have also released an annual report detailing the police adherence to the new guidelines.
Alderman Joe Moreno introduced a version of the ordinance requiring CPD to adopt a policy for handling transgender detainees with supervision by the city’s Human Relations and Public safety committees.
In it’s current form, the provisions of the ordinance would be overseen by the Chicago City Council Human Relations and Public Relations committees, instead of a new, transgender issues committee or commission.
“The proposed ordinance that was introduced in March removed all major enforcement and accountability components that we had previously discussed were essential to include,” wrote Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, in a statement. “Because the proposed ordinance as it currently exists has no real teeth to it, Equality Illinois and our coalition partners have decided to withdraw our support.”
The ordinance comes on the heels of Cicero transgender woman Bianca Feliciano’s lawsuit against the Cicero Police Department and two officers. Feliciano alleges police wrongly assumed she was a prostitute because she is a transgender woman and refused to accept her state ID, which identified her as a woman.
Nearly half of transgender people feel uncomfortable seeking police assistance, and 60 percent of transgender women—particularly transgender women of color—reported harassment from police, according to a study completed by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Prisons, jails and law enforcement aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so as far as reducing harm goes, this ordinance could be somewhat effective. Incarcerated transgender people are often housed in facilities that reflect their legal sex, and they are more likely to be raped, brutalized and harassed. Otherwise, they are placed in solitary confinement where they are usually in a cell 23 hours per day and have little to no outside contact.