Community Police Commission Reviewing Bias in Law Enforcement
by Nick Castele
The panel charged with recommending policy changes to Cleveland police met last night to hear about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Northeast Ohioans' experiences with law enforcement.
A working group within the community-police commission is drafting proposals for dealing with bias by police officers, and gathered at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.
Under the consent decree, Cleveland police must adopt new policies preventing officers from arresting or searching people solely based on their race, gender, sexual orientation or other attributes.
Attendees expressed concern that transgender Clevelanders are met with suspicion or a lack of understanding by police. They said officers should address people by their preferred names, using pronouns that match with gender identities—and that derogatory remarks or slurs shouldn’t be a part of police culture.
The group also discussed how to treat LGBT victims of crime with respect. Police Sgt. Dierdre Jones, a board member at the LGBT center, said people can face unique challenges in domestic violence cases.
“Many LGBT victims do not come forward because they’re afraid,” Jones said. “They’re afraid they’ll be judged. They’re afraid they’ll be arrested…threatened by their partner that they could be outed, their HIV status could be outed.”
The commission has held numerous meetings on bias-free policing already, and has another scheduled in Cleveland’s main homeless shelters later this month. The panel has until March 7 to submit recommendations.