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Transgender Activists Wait For MPD Response After Bias Allegations

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Transgender activists are still waiting to hear whether MPD is going to look into their claims that police officers have a bias against transgender people.
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Transgender activists are still waiting to hear whether MPD is going to look into their claims that police officers have a bias against transgender people.

The U.S. Justice Department is mediating allegations that D.C.'s police department is violating the civil rights of transgendered people. 

The first meeting between Justice Department investigators and transgendered activists took place this past October, according to Jason Terry with the D.C. Trans Coalition. (The Justice Department declined to be interviewed for this story.) At that meeting, gay activists outlined their bias allegations against the Metropolitan police department. Those allegations include low closure rates of crimes against transgendered victims and more.

"Incredibly frightening instances of police violence against trans people," says Terry. "Totally uncalled for, totally unacceptable."

The Justice Department officials the coalition met with belong to the Community Relations Service, which has decades of experience mediating disputes before they escalate into civil rights lawsuits. During November of last year, the two civil rights investigators met with MPD brass and outlined the allegations, according to Terry.

"MPD said simply, 'we'll get back to you if we decide to let mediation go forward,'" says Terry. That was Nov. 28, and the group hasn't heard from MPD since. D.C. Deputy Mayor Paul Quander, who oversees the police department, also declined to comment for this story.

But D.C. Mayor Vince Gray, when asked about the DOJ investigation, said he would speak with MPD Chief Cathy Lanier about the probe. "I'm going to talk to the chief and we're going to figure out what is the best path forward to be able to address this," Gray said.

Gray added that he aims for D.C. to be a place where everyone's rights are respected. "I've been a good friend of the transgendered community because people deserve an opportunity, everybody deserves an opportunity," Gray said. "So we're going to work with our police department to make sure we bring everybody along.

Terry warns matters will escalate if the bias policing continues. The group could ask for a DOJ Civil Rights Division investigation into the MPD; a similar investigation conducted last year in New Orleans found significant anti-trans bias on the part of New Orleans Police Department. 

"Los Angeles just completed negotiations between the trans community the human relations commission and the LAPD," Terry says. "In Chicago next month, they're considering legislation to create a trans policing oversight board." 

This morning at at D.C. Council hearing on public safety, transgender activists will deliver their demands to Gray and the council.

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