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San Diego LGBTQ Community Leaders React To New Police Procedures

A float carrying participants in the San Diego Pride Parade waits its turn on...

Photo by Kristan Lieb

Above: A float carrying participants in the San Diego Pride Parade waits its turn on Normal Street, July 13, 2013.

The San Diego Police Department released new procedures this week outlining how officers should interact with transgender and nonbinary people.

Among other things, the new policy requires officers to use people’s preferred pronouns and booking individuals in jail facilities that align with their preferred gender identity.

Listen to this story by Cristina Kim

“This procedure lets our community know that San Diego Police Department understands the needs of our community and the appropriate treatment of all individuals based on their preferred gender identity,” said SDPD LGBTQ Liaison Christine Garcia, the department’s first openly transgender police officer.

RELATED: SDPD Adopts New Rules On Interactions With Transgender, Nonbinary Citizens

Reported by Cristina Kim , Video by Mike Damron

Ashli Davis of the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition believes these new procedures will help keep transgender and nonbinary safer when in police custody.

“This is a great policy and definitely a change that I never thought I would see,” Davis said.

Still, some in the LGBTQ community continue to be wary of the police even as they applaud these reforms.

“Let’s face it, the San Diego Police Department has a lot of building of trust to do with the LGBTQ+ community,” said Charlie Brown, a Black, gay activist who organized a march last year after George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer. “People are afraid of the police.”

That fear and mistrust are rooted in decades of mistreatment, which continues today, Brown said. San Diego Police are 22% more likely to search a person perceived as LGBTQ with Black and Latino LGBTQ individuals searched at the highest rates, according to a 2019 study on SDPD practices by the group Campaign Zero.

Brown is also part of the San Diego Pride’s Healing and Safer Communities Committee. He’s working with other members of the Black LGBTQ community on a set of recommendations for how law enforcement can best interact with the community.

RELATED: New Cultural Awareness App Gives Officers Background On Various Cultural Norms

San Diego Pride limited police presence last year as a show of support for the Black LGBTQ community. Fernando López, Executive Director of SD Pride, stands by that decision.

“If members of our community are saying they’re feeling harmed, brutalized and victimized, it’s our job to listen,” López said. “I see more and more Prides across the country doing that and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

López applauds SDPD’s new procedures but still isn’t sure what role police will play in future Pride marches.

“I am really looking forward to listening to the LGBTQ Black community members,” López said. “Right now, that work is not complete.”

This year’s San Diego Pride events will begin on June 24. Although there won’t be a large march due to COVID-19 precautions, López hopes the celebration will continue to honor its history.

Pride events began after a group lead by Black and Latino transgender people fought back during a police raid of New York City’s Stonewall Inn in 1969. At the time, being LGBTQ was criminalized across the United States, including in San Diego where a city ordinance banned “cross-dressing” until 1998.

“Our origins are literally in response to state-sanctioned police violence that often gets ignored,” López said. “And yes, celebrate queer joy, but that queer joy is in pursuit of justice.”

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Photo of Cristina Kim

Cristina Kim
Racial Justice and Social Equity Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover racial justice and social equity issues – an expansive beat that includes housing, health, criminal justice, and education. I am interested in unpacking how systems reproduce inequalities and highlighting the ways communities of color are pushing for greater equity.

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