Charleston police attended training last month to improve encounters with transgender community

The trainings were led by LGBTQ officers

Officers of the Charleston Police Department were trained on unconscious bias with a focus on the LGBTQ community and gender identity at a series of in-house sessions last month.

On Oct. 18 and 19, more than 400 sworn officers in the department attended one of three half-hour sessions held in the municipal courthouse at 180 Lockwood Blvd., next to police headquarters.

The sessions were led by officers KJ Ivery and Terry Cherry, both of whom identify as LGBTQ.

Local LGBTQ organizations We Are Family and Alliance for Full Acceptance helped with the information presented to the officers, according to inspector Karen Nix of the department’s professional standards office.

The training was partly based on the department’s “Fair and Impartial Policing” policy.

The document outlines procedures for interacting with trans folk during public encounters, which were added to the department’s manual in February 2017. Officers are advised to address people by the pronouns and names they request and to document their chosen names in the AKA or alias sections of citations, face sheets, and booking paperwork. If there is doubt about a person’s name, officers are asked to defer to the names listed on their IDs or other legal documents.

All officers had until the end of October to review the training once more through a policy management software.

The effort was first announced by Chief Luther Reynolds at a public town hall hosted by police and LGBTQ leaders on Sept. 4.
[content-4] That meeting followed the assault of Kendra Martinez, a 34-year-old trans woman from Goose Creek. On Aug. 19, Martinez came to the aid of her sister during an altercation at a downtown parking garage. That’s when Christopher Price is said to have punched Martinez in the head and knocked her unconscious. An officer found her lying face-down and bleeding from her head.

In a statement sent to media on Aug. 24, police spokesman Charles Francis said that Martinez wasn’t assaulted because she’s “a transgender.” Days later, Francis clarified that a follow-up investigation showed Price had confronted her about her gender identity before hitting her.

It is not clear if Francis attended one of last month’s training sessions.

Chase Glenn, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, estimates that about 30 to 40 officers attended the session he visited.

“I wanted to show that I thought it was a good step on behalf of the police department,” Glenn said in a phone interview with CP. “The purpose of the training was to outline very basic [concepts] — how to interact with trans folk, terminology, things that you don’t want to say, things you can’t say — it’s very base level.”

Nix says the department is considering adding the gender identity guidelines to the mandatory pre-academy training for new hires.

“I can say the Charleston Police Department is training as much as we can and learning as much as we can,” Nix said.

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