Since the tragedy in Orlando, police departments have been falling over themselves to proclaim that they are allies to the LGBT community, despite their historic and ongoing role as some of the worst perpetrators of violence against LGBT folks. Pride provided an opportunity for some outlandish displays of “allyship,” such as the NYPD’s introduction of the rainbow squad car and the anti-terrorism cops with machine guns and bomb-sniffing dogs stationed (indefinitely?) in front of the Stonewall Inn. At the vigil for Orlando held at Stonewall on June 13th, Mayor Bill de Blasio followed suit, proclaiming his allyship in terms of increased policing: “You will be safe. You will be protected,” he said, to which many in the crowd responded, “Bullshit!”
In an effort to increase trust between the LGBT community and law enforcement, New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board has produced a report “analyzing data regarding allegations of misconduct in the LGBT community” in NYC from 2010-2015. The glaring gap between CCRB’s statistics and the reality of LGBT folks’ interactions with cops reveals that building trust with the LGBT community has not been a top priority for NYC law enforcement.
First, CCRB’s report only notes 446 complaints made by folks who identified as LGBT from 2010-2015, and only 5 complaints “in which complainants conveyed they were targeted by the police because there were transgendered [sic].” These numbers seem far too low to encompass every complaint made by an LGBT person in the last five years—an inconsistency which is perhaps explained by the fact that “[o]nly recently, in December 2015, did CCRB add an option for complainants and/or victims to voluntarily disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity when filing a complaint.” This means that out of 72 months’ worth of data, only one of those months included the option for complainants to reveal their gender identity or sexuality. If this option wasn’t included for the majority of the time encompassed by the survey, one has to wonder how CCRB identified LGBT folks’ complaints, and how many complaints they have misidentified due to lack of pertinent information.
Through reports such as the Anti-Violence Project’s 2014 report on Hate Violence, we know that cops disproportionately target the LGBT community—particular LGBT people of color, TGNCI people, and LGBT youth. For example, according to AVP’s report, trans women in 2014 were 5.8 times more likely to experience any police violence and 6.1 times more likely to experience physical police violence. Similarly, trans people of color were 6.2 times more likely to experience any police violence. These realities are not reflected in CCRB’s report.
Furthermore, just as with reports of sexual assault, police abuse is inevitably going to be underreported. Because many LGBT folks—especially those who are TGNCI, low-income, homeless, and/or people of color—don’t trust the system and are reluctant to submit themselves to increased scrutiny by the State, reporting abuse by the cops can be a fraught process, and one that many may choose to avoid altogether. If folks do report police abuse, they might not disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity in an effort to protect themselves. Thus, the true numbers are likely to be even greater than those reported by either CCRB or AVP.
As the NYPD and police departments across the country undergo new LGBT sensitivity trainings and turn their cop cars rainbow, we must be wary of giving them the ally cookies they so desperately crave. So long as cop “allyship” consists of increased police presence in queer spaces, increased machine guns and bomb-dogs, increased Islamophobia and racial profiling, and rabid pinkwashing to cover it all up, we need to make it clear that they are not our allies. Because if you give a cop an ally cookie…he’s going to ask for more state-sanctioned violence.
Look forward to SRLP’s updated cop interaction guidelines for TGNCI folks coming soon!