New Report Finds Harassment & Mistreatment Fuels Mistrust Among LGBTQ People Towards Police

April 30, 2024 9:36 am

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NEW YORK – Widespread mistreatment and harassment by law enforcement continues to sow doubt and mistrust of police among LGBTQ+ people, according to a new analysis, despite LGBTQ+ people also facing higher rates of crime victimization than their peers.

Using survey data collected by NORC at the University of Chicago, the American Civil Liberties Union, in collaboration with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of California, Irvine, found disparities between LGBTQ+ people and non-LGBTQ+ people, and within the LGBTQ+ community in reported experiences with police.

  • LGBTQ+ people as a group experience more adverse treatment by police than non-LGBTQ+ people as a group. This is particularly pronounced among bisexual, transgender, and nonbinary people, who are more susceptible to experiencing insulting language and physical force from the police.
    • More than one in four (26.8 percent) of transgender people report experiencing physical force by police. Black transgender people were the most likely to have experienced physical force by the police among all LGBTQ+ people by race.
    • Transgender and nonbinary respondents (44.9 percent and 33.1 percent, respectively) were significantly more likely than LGBTQ+ cisgender men (14.6 percent) to have experienced insulting language by the police.
  • LGBTQ+ people were more likely to be the subject of police search, detainment, or arrest and more likely to be placed in police custody.
    • Almost 20 percent of LGBTQ+ people had been arrested by the police compared with 13.6 percent of non-LGBTQ+ people.
    • Nearly one third of transgender people (30.7 percent) had been arrested.
  • At the aggregate level, LGBTQ+ people (71.0 percent) were less willing to call the police for help in the future compared with non-LGBTQ+ people (86.9 percent), and there were important differences based on sexual orientation and gender.
    • Lesbian and gay people (80.4 percent) were almost as likely to say they would call the police for help as non-LGBTQ+ people (86.9 percent). However, only 68.5 percent of bisexual and 60.2 percent of queer+ people indicated that they would call the police for help in the future.
    • Latine LGBTQ+ people (57.8 percent) are significantly less likely to call the police for help in the future than white LGBTQ+ people (74.1 percent)
    • Transgender respondents (61.3 percent) were far less likely than cisgender LGBTQ+ men to call the police for help in the future, and approximately one-quarter of nonbinary people (27.4 percent) were willing to call the police for help. Cisgender LGBTQ+ women (71.5 percent) are also less likely to call the police for help than cisgender LGBTQ+ men.

The full report, Policing Progress, includes policy recommendations such as:

  • Reduce negative encounters between police and community members including ending policies and practices that require or incentivize officers to engage in aggressive tactics, such as quotas for citations or arrests, and ceasing enforcement of consensual sex work.
  • Adopt specific policies and practices that ensure fair and equitable treatment of LGBTQ+ people, including prohibitions on the use of explicitly hateful language and frisks and searches aimed at determining someone’s gender.
  • Carefully consider police presence in public LGBTQ+ spaces and events, such as pride parades and festivals.
  • Implement strong oversight with meaningful community involvement to ensure police are held accountable for rights violations and mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people.
  • Repeal existing laws that explicitly criminalize LGBTQ+ people and expression, and oppose any proposed anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including those that would criminalize necessary medical care or criminalize drag.

Emily Greytak, director of research, ACLU:

“The harassment and mistreatment of LGBTQ people by law enforcement is fueling a crisis of criminalization and mistrust. While they’re much more likely to be survivors of physical and sexual violence, LGBTQ people are far less likely to have faith police will do anything but expose them to even more danger. Fifty-five years after the police raided the Stonewall Inn, this report finds how little has changed and what can be done moving forward to help ensure the safety and dignity of all members of the LGBTQ community.”

Andrew Aleman, deputy director of People Power and Kenna Barnes, advocacy manager, Black And Pink:
“The findings of this report not only highlight the vast difference in LGBTQIA+ people’s experience with law enforcement compared to cisgender and heterosexual people, but the differences within the LGBTQIA+ community. Racism and transphobia are built into the legal system and these results emphasize the impact that has on Black, Brown, and trans people engaging with law enforcement. We know that calling the police is dangerous for many of the people Black and Pink National serves. The solution to this issue is often increasing police presence or training but this data shows that there is a legitimate lack of institutional trust. We call on the people who read this report to imagine community-centered and community-based approaches to emergency services.”

Stefan Vogler, assistant professor of sociology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign:
“LGBTQ+ people have been largely absent from conversations about policing in the United States, despite a historically fraught relationship. Policing Progress reveals that this fraught relationship continues today and shows that LGBTQ+ people continue to face disproportionate mistreatment by the police compared with their non-LGBTQ+ peers. This report is a call to action for LGBTQ+ advocates, lawmakers, and law enforcement to improve the treatment of LGBTQ+ people throughout the criminal legal system.”

Jordan Grasso, doctoral candidate in criminology, law and society, University of California, Irvine:

“The findings presented in the report highlight the enduring nature of many of the disparities present at the time of the Stonewall Uprisings. Despite some progress in police-LGBTQ+ relations, due in part to an evolving legal landscape, the findings suggest that these gains have not uniformly reached all segments of the LGBTQ+ community. Those who experience intersecting forms of marginalization stemming from their gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, or socioeconomic status disproportionately continue to experience more negative interactions with the police.”

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