Tag Archives: media

Advocacy Coalition Supports MPD Clarification of Condom Policy

For Immediate Release:

March 11, 2013

Contacts:

Rebekah Horowitz, The Women’s Collective, (202) 483-7003
Cyndee Clay, HIPS, (202) 232-8150 x307
Paola Barahona, DC Appleseed, (202) 289-8007, x19
Darby Hickey, DC Trans Coalition, (202) 250-4869
William McColl, AIDS United, (202) 408-4848
Megan McLemore, Human Rights Watch, (646) 784-4827

Advocacy Coalition Supports MPD Clarification of Condom Policy

Washington, DC — The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is taking steps to educate the community and police officers about the possession of condoms – they are not to be considered reasonable cause to stop, search, or arrest someone. In addition to clarifying Department policy via police “roll call” bulletin, MPD has begun to distribute cards in the community explaining that individuals have the right to carry as many condoms as they want in the District of Columbia. The card text reads:

Know Your Rights

» The MPD supports the distribution of condoms to help prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

» Individuals are allowed to carry as many condoms as they want. There is no “three condom rule.”

» MPD officers cannot conduct a stop or conduct a search of a person or premises based on whether or not that person possesses condoms.

The card also provides information on how to make complaints of police misconduct, in the case that an officer fails to follow these guidelines. A scan of the card is attached.cKYRcardfront cKYRcardback

“This important development will help promote condom use in the District, where we have one of the highest rates of HIV in the country,” said Rebekah Horowitz, Policy and Advocacy Manager at The Women’s Collective.

Last July, Human Rights Watch released research that documented instances of police confiscating condoms or threatening to use the safe sex materials as evidence of criminal activity, primarily prostitution. By distributing these cards, MPD clarifies that the police support public health interventions and will not interfere with condom possession and distribution.

“We often hear from community members that they believe possession of more than three condoms can be grounds for arrest,” said Cyndee Clay, Executive Director of HIPS.  “The MPD’s statements put the myth of the ‘three condom rule’ to rest and make clear the process for reporting police officers who violate the condom possession policy.”

The new development came in response to calls for clarification on MPD policy from a coalition of HIV/AIDS, advocacy, and service organizations. The coalition, which thanked the MPD for providing the clarification, includes The Women’s Collective, HIPS, DC Appleseed, DC Trans Coalition, AIDS United, and Human Rights Watch.

DCTC Denounces Ongoing Violence against Trans and LGB People

In response to the past week’s string of attacks on members of DC’s LGBT communities, the DC Trans Coalition releases the following statement:

The DC Trans Coalition condemns the recent assault on a transgender woman on West Virginia Ave, NE and the two separate assaults on gay men in the greater Columbia Heights area. We note, with increasing frustration, that these are just the latest incidents in a long history of violence against transgender and LGB people in our city, particularly young transgender women of color. We are stunned that some media coverage and community responses are sidelining the attack on the transgender woman – perhaps in part because of the Metropolitan Police Department’s refusal to classify the attack as a hate crime, despite the victim’s own statements.

While the attacks on both gay men have been classified as bias crimes, MPD has refused to classify the assault on the transgender woman as a bias-related crime because she was beaten so badly as to be knocked unconscious and, as a result, has hazy memories of her assault. The police department has also regularly refused to take responsibility for preventing and solving anti-trans crimes (as we discuss here). Rather than advocate for safer conditions for trans people, Chief Cathy Lanier and other police officials have recently said, on several occasions, that members of the trans community are responsible for avoiding “situations where they might be harmed.” This kind of blatant victim-blaming demonstrates deep misunderstanding of the pervasive anti-trans discrimination found throughout our city.

We request that Mayor Gray, the MPD, the media and even members of lesbian, gay and bisexual communities in DC to give equal support and visibility to all three victims of the recent attacks and to come together to seriously address the ongoing anti-trans, and now anti-gay, violence in Washington, DC.

Check out our op-ed on continued problems with MPD

We’ve got a new op-ed in this week’s issue of Metro Weekly, focusing on the “Chief Problem” in dealing with DC’s Metropolitan Police Department. At its core are Chief Lanier’s continued pattern of victim blaming, and her failure to recognize that MPD’s current efforts are insufficient towards curtailing anti-trans violence.

A brief snippet:

We ask that Mayor Vince Gray direct Lanier – after nearly six years of failing to do so on her own – to outline concrete steps to solve anti-trans crimes, address police bias, and formalize and fund the training program run by LGBT community groups. The increases in anti-trans violence, reports of profiling of trans women of color in prostitution enforcement, and blatant police bias can no longer be overlooked.

Read the whole thing here.

On-going Updates On Recent Violence, Including More Attacks

  • Violence against trans women in D.C. is continuing to gain widespread media attention. For example, NPR currently has a national story featuring interviews with DCTC members and allies: Violent Attacks on Transgender People Raise Alarm. It’s unfortunately worth mentioning that there have been even more violent incidents targeting trans women that are not recorded in this article.
  • We were recently notified by MPD that a trans woman was stabbed in the abdomen on Sept. 26th by two male suspects. The suspects also verbally assaulted the survivor and her friends with homophobic/transphobic language before the attack. The incident occurred on the 700 block of North Capitol Street. Thankfully, the victim’s injuries were non-life threatening and responding police officers were able to arrest both suspects. They are being charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon – Bias Related.
  • Today, Darryl Willard Jr., who shot a trans woman in the neck on Sept. 12 on Savannah Street SE, accepted the plea bargain to one count of Aggravated Assault While Armed, which carries a 5 year mandatory minimum and a maximum of 30 or 40 years. It is not being prosecuted as a hate crime. Willard was previously charged with Assault With Intent to Kill While Armed. A sentencing hearing was set for December 6, 2011 at 9:30AM.  DCTC will have an opportunity to submit a Community Impact Statement. In the meantime, we continue to ensure that the survivor’s identity is respected by the court.
  • Last Sunday, about 200 showed up at Dupont Circle for a vigil commemorating Gigi Gopalan, who was murdered in Columbia Heights on Sept. 10th.

Finally, Some Good News: Trans Employment Program Success! (Plus More Updates)

After a brutal summer, we are excited to share some positive results from our collective struggle to improve the lives of trans folks in the District. After talks between trans advocates and D.C. Mayor Gray, 21 trans individuals are participating in Project Empowerment’s pilot program to combat transphobic discrimination. NPR has an in-depth look.

DCTC is doing all we can to support the participants and make it a success. We are very excited to be part of this ground-breaking effort to address unemployment in our communities, and we hope the District will continue to fund similar potentially life-saving resources.

In response to the recent string of violence, we’ve received an unprecedented amount of letters of support in the past few weeks. We are looking forward to a busy fall, so if you’re thinking about getting involved now is a great time! We are gearing up for our next semi-annual Community Forum, tentatively scheduled for October 23rd. Here is a bit more news from our active campaigns…

Needs Assessment

  • We just passed a major hurdle toward receiving funding so that we can begin Phase Two. Our Needs Assessment Working Group is in the process of designing the paper survey that will soon be distributed. If you’d like to help out, they meet on the second and third Tuesdays of the month. Click here to learn more.
  • In case you missed it, be sure to check out the critically important results from our community roundtable discussions at the Phase One Summary Report.

Jails

  • DCTC members recently attended the first ever meeting of the D.C. Department of Corrections Transgender Advisory Council, a new body meant to increase transparency and community oversight into how the DOC is handling trans inmates. We will have more updates shortly!
  • A Corrections officer is currently being investigated for issuing death threats against two trans women. We are following this case closely.

Responding to Violence and Hate Crimes

  • DCTC is continuing to work with community members in response to the many recent instances of violence involving trans women and/or motivated by transphobia. Click herehere and here to see media interviews with DCTC members.
  • Adding to our fears that the string of murders was motivated by bias, the makeshift memorial to Lashai Mcclean that was left at the site she was murdered (and near where two other trans women were shot weeks later) has been burned.
  • The death of Gaurav Gopalan was recently ruled a homicide.
  • An arrest was made in the shooting of a trans woman in Southeast.
  • We are working with our allies at Transgender Health Empowerment and elsewhere to organize this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance and other events around November 20th. If you’d like to help, watch for an announcement about the next TDOR Planning Meeting.

Police

  • Members of DCTC have recently attended early meetings with other community organizations who are working to create a new coalition called TLGB Police Watch.
  • We maintain regular communication with the Metropolitan Police Department to express our concern about transphobia in MPD. We want to make sure that officers are being properly trained, and we want MPD to take the recent crimes against trans people seriously.
  • We are preparing to conduct another round of training for the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit.
  • We continue to monitor the legal case against Officer Furr, who recently shot at a group of trans people and their friends while off-duty.

MPD Officer Charged in Shooting Trans Women Ordered Held Without Bond

Yesterday, the court found probable cause that Officer Furr, the 20-year MPD veteran who was recently charged in a violent incident involving several trans women, committed assault with a dangerous weapon. He was also found to be a danger to society and ordered to be held without bond pending trial. The defense attempted to claim that Furr was acting in self-defense, as he was a police officer who felt threatened, but the judge dismissed that argument because Furr didn’t testify himself. The grand jury investigation has already begun, and another hearing is scheduled for early October. We will be watching this case closely. Thanks to everyone who has shown support and concern!

More on the story at NBC News and WAMU (including interviews with DCTC members).

Take Action! Next Steps After the Rally Against Police Violence

Thank you to everyone who came to the emergency Rally Against Police Violence! Around 70 people turned out with under four hours notice. (Click here for photos and media coverage.) Violence takes an emotional toll on all of us, and seeing such tangible support goes a long way toward community healing and regaining our sense of empowerment. We heard from representatives of DCTC, HIPS, Latin@s en Accion, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, and Rainbow Response. Ward 6 City Council member Tommy Wells and individual survivors of violence also spoke. You all have our deep, heartfelt thanks!

So, what next? Already in 2011, MPD has reported 1 murder, 3 assaults with deadly weapon, 1 rape, 2 simple assaults, and 1 incidence of threats against trans women linked to anti-trans bias. Due to police failures in recording bias-motivated crimes and many trans people’s distrust of police, community groups unsurprisingly report much higher numbers. HIPS noted a 300% increase in violent incidents reported to them since last year. Most of these crimes targeted transgender women of color, and most were never reported to police. This must stop immediately.

Here are two ways YOU can get involved to stop violence against trans women:

*Demand Justice: Keep the Heat on MPD! DCTC and our allies will continue to put the pressure on Police Chief Cathy Lanier and to demand accountability and transparency. We want to see consequences for both Officer Furr and Officer Radon, who also assaulted a trans woman while off-duty last year. Regardless of Officer Furr’s motivation for harming members of our community, MPD must be held responsible for re-instating an officer who opened fire on innocent people while drunk and unauthorized to carry a weapon. Additionally, we demand that MPD:

  • Expand training for its entire force on the existing laws and protocols to protect trans people,
  • Take crimes against trans and queer people seriously,
  • Track and report crimes against trans people accurately, as they are required by law to do,
  • Notify DCTC and the Critical Response Team immediately with any developments in incidents that impact trans people,
  • Stop profiling trans women of color and abusing communities they assume to be sex workers, and
  • End the the disastrous Prostitution Free Zones and other anti-prostitution initiatives that force sex workers into dangerous situations where they are more likely to encounter violence.

Let the Police Department know that you are concerned about it’s treatment of transgender women. You can contact Chief Lanier at cathy.lanier@dc.gov. Also, Officer Furr’s trial and investigation are getting underway. Follow our blog or Facebook for updates!

*Work Toward Prevention: Fight Poverty, Unemployment and Job Discrimination! Trans communities face a rate of unemployment and levels of poverty that are double the already devastating rates in the United States. D.C. Mayor Gray recently promised to create a jobs program specifically targeting trans communities. Social programs will help decrease violence by solving the underlying housing instability and job precarity that put so many trans people, especially of color, in harm’s way.

Support our efforts to decrease barriers to employment and increase access to jobs for trans people in DC as we follow-up on Mayor Gray’s promised jobs program. Learn more and write him in support of these initiatives at eom@dc.gov.

***

For background on the recent apparent rise in violence against transgender women in D.C. (including how it relates to police, racism, sex work, city budget cuts, gentrification and more) … see here!