Transgender suspects can demand Boston cops use adopted names under new policies

Transgender criminal suspects in Boston reportedly can demand that police officers address them by their adopted names and choose whether male or female officers frisk them, according to new policies unveiled by the city’s police commissioner.

The Boston Herald reports that transgender suspects can also receive a personal, private ride to court under the policies unveiled Tuesday by Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis.

“Our main goal is that everyone should be treated equally, and everyone should be treated with respect and dignity, whether you’re at the front desk or on the other side of the front desk,” said Officer Javier Pagan, the Boston Police Department’s liaison to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. “Everyone should be treated with the same respect.”

Five months ago, the Boston Police Department paid $20,000 to settle a federal lawsuit by Brenda Wernikoff, a transgender woman arrested in May 2010 for using the women’s bathroom at a homeless shelter. Cops forced Wernikoff to strip and “ordered Ms. Wernikoff to jump up and down, causing her breasts to jiggle,” according to the suit.

The policies, according to the Herald, require police officers to “address transgender individuals by the individual’s adopted name ... even if the individual has not received legal recognition of the adopted name”; “respectfully ask the individual” when they are “uncertain about which pronouns are appropriate”; and ask transgender suspects whether they prefer to be frisked by male or female officers.

“It’s just easier that way,” Pagan said. “If a person lives their life as a female and they feel more comfortable having a female search them — and we’re not talking about strip searches, we’re just talking about pat-downs — if they feel more comfortable having a female do it, then that way you’re sort of just giving them their dignity.”

Whenever possible, transgender prisoners will be transported and jailed alone. Pagan said the rules have been in the works for several years and are modeled after policies in Chicago and Washington, D.C., the Herald reports.

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