Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another Trans-Related Hate Crime in Memphis

On the heels of the recent press coverage about the Memphis Police Department’s (MPD) failure to respond to the beating of Duanna Johnson, the department finds itself investigating another trans-related hate crime. Early Tuesday morning, a daycare worker discovered the body of a trans woman just steps away from a local daycare center and an abandoned apartment complex in southeast Memphis; however, where the victim died and how she died is raising questions.

Given the MPD’s glacial response to the February 12th beating of Duanna Johnson, advocates are understandably concerned over the thoroughness of this police investigation. In an effort to improve MPD’s accountability policy and procedures, the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center issued a list of demands that include the reappointment of a LGBT liaison to the MPD, the Mayor’s Office, and the City Council. The demands also call for sensitivity training addressing issues of gender identity and sexual orientation, and the need to support a city-wide nondiscrimination bill that includes enumerated language that would protect individuals on the basis of real or perceived gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

Allegedly MPD’s spokesperson, Monique Martin, said sensitivity training is part of an officer’s overall training. I am dubious that such trainings discuss the policy and procedures of handling the bookings and treatment of trans people. Few localities have only to aspire to those policies established by the San Francisco Police Department, yet groups like the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center are holding the MPD and other City Agencies accountable to similar standards. The group is actively requesting an update on the MPD’s progress within the next two weeks, and as always, PFLAG National will keep you updated on this very important issue.

-J. Rhodes Perry

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