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AG Grewal issues directive governing law enforcement interactions with transgender individuals

TRENTON, NJ – In conjunction with the release of a report by the Transgender Equality Task Force, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal Wednesday announced three major new steps to protect residents from discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Grewal issued a directive to all state, county, and local law enforcement agencies that governs interactions with transgender individuals. Attorney General Directive 2019-3, known as the “LGBTQ Equality Directive,” is designed to ensure that all individuals are guaranteed safety and dignity in their encounters with law enforcement, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

In addition, Grewal also announced a new public awareness campaign by the Division on Civil Rights to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or intersex (LGBTQ+) individuals under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, and an expanded policy by the Juvenile Justice Commission regarding LGBTQ+ juveniles.

The announcement by Grewal coincided with national Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“No one should be afraid about interacting with police because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity,” said Attorney General Grewal. “That is why our law enforcement community, which proudly includes LGBTQ officers among our ranks, is committed to building trust with our LGBTQ residents. Building on the extraordinary work of law enforcement agencies across this country and right here in New Jersey, we’re ensuring that our officers will act in ways that promote the dignity and safety of LGBTQ individuals, whether they are victims, witnesses, suspects, arrestees, or other members of the public. Only by having the trust of our diverse communities can we fulfill our mission of protecting all New Jersey residents.”

“This new law enforcement directive will ensure that all of our officers in New Jersey have the training they need to be able to interact and carry out their duties with members of the LGBTQ community in a manner that will promote respect and safety for civilians and officers alike,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our law enforcement officers understand the importance of community policing and building trust with all members of the community, and I believe they will welcome this guidance to understand the appropriate language to use and actions to take when dealing with LGBTQ persons.”

“Every citizen deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and compassion when interacting with law enforcement,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “Our first general order, which was issued nearly one hundred years ago, dictates that troopers discharge their duties by a steady and impartial line of conduct. That core principle will forever stand as a moral pillar for our organization, and continuing education and training programs like this initiative are essential to fulfilling that commitment.”

“I appreciate the Attorney General’s outreach to the CPANJ for its input on this important Directive,” said Sussex County Prosecutor Francis A. Koch, who currently serves as the President of the County Prosecutor’s Association of New Jersey (CPANJ). “The Directive provides all law enforcement officers with guidance when dealing with anyone from the LGBTQ community, to guarantee that they are treated with equal respect and to provide for their safety. This Directive will help further the trust that the LGBTQ community currently has for Law Enforcement and will help build upon that trust in the future.”

The Directive includes the following provisions, among others:

  • Law enforcement officers shall not stop, question, search, arrest or detain any individual, or subject any individual to more invasive search procedures, because of the individual’s actual or perceived gender identity or expression and/or sexual orientation.
  • Officers shall not inquire about details of a person’s sexual practices or anatomy unless it is necessary to an ongoing criminal investigation.
  • Officers shall not publicly disclose an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity unless there is a proper law enforcement purpose or the individual agrees.
  • Officers shall address individuals using their chosen names – even if the name is not the one on official records – as well as their chosen pronouns.
  • As a general rule, officers shall perform any actions that turn on gender in line with the individual’s gender identity, regardless of gender assigned at birth or anatomical characteristics. For example, this means that for the purpose of conducting a search, officers shall treat a transgender woman as they would treat any other woman, and officers shall treat a transgender man as they would treat any other man.

The Directive also includes an appendix that offers definitions of key terms and explains language considered offensive to the LGBTQ+ community that must be avoided.

The Division of Criminal Justice will develop a training program on the Directive, which all officers will be required to complete by June 1, 2020. At the same time, the directive requires County Prosecutors to engage in efforts to educate the public about the Directive. It also directs all law enforcement agencies to seek to establish relationships with LGBTQ+ organizations and community leaders to maintain a dialogue about issues affecting transgender individuals.

At the same time, DCR is doubling down on its efforts to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or expression and/or sexual orientation by launching a campaign to ensure that affected residents know their rights under New Jersey law. DCR has issued four new fact sheets, laying out “5 Things You Should Know” about the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), that are being distributed in public and on social media, and that are posted online on the Division’s website at this link: LGBTQ+ Fact Sheets.

“LGBTQ residents, and especially transgender people, continue to face high levels of discrimination and harassment,” said DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apter. “Our new public awareness campaign is designed to ensure that LGBTQ people know their rights under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and to ensure that landlords, employers and places of public accommodation know what they need to do to comply with the law. The bottom line is that people must be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, and we are committed to strongly enforcing the law.”

Among other things, the new information sheets make clear that:

  • An employer may not make employment decisions like hiring or firing, promotions and benefits based on LGBTQ+ status or gender stereotypes. A landlord cannot refuse to lease, charge higher rent, offer different amenities or refuse repairs based on LGBTQ+ status. And a place of public accommodation (such as a school or a doctor’s office) cannot refuse service or offer a different degree of service or care based on LGBTQ+ status.
  • Individuals must be treated consistently with their gender identity or expression, which includes being addressed by their chosen names and pronouns and being allowed to use the appropriate restroom or changing room.
  • The LAD also prohibits harassment based on LGBTQ+ status in a way that creates a hostile environment. If an employer, housing provider or place of public accommodation knows or should have known about such harassment, it must take action to stop it.
  • An employer, landlord or place of public accommodation cannot retaliate against a person for exercising or attempting to exercise their rights under the LAD.

Each information sheet advises members of the public to go to or call the Division on Civil Rights at 973-648-2700 to find out more or to file a complaint alleging a violation of these rights.

The new JJC policy on LGBTQ+ juveniles modifies and expands its prior policy. The new policy is designed to ensure that staff provide fair and equal treatment to all juveniles, protect juveniles from harassment and discrimination and provide a safe, healthy and accepting environment where all juveniles are treated with respect and dignity.

The updated policy includes expanded guidelines for staff on proper behavior and respectful communication when interacting with LGBTQ+ juveniles; provisions regarding housing, facilities and programming; search restrictions; medical and mental health care; and confidentiality.

“The Juvenile Justice Commission is committed to ensuring that all of our youth, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity are treated fairly and equitably,” said JJC Acting Executive Director Jennifer LeBaron. “We know that LGBTQ youth are more likely to face rejection and harassment. Our updated policy will make sure that we continue to treat the LGBTQ youth in our care in a respectful manner, and that we continue to cultivate a culture of dignity and safety for all.”

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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