Called out by a rights tribunal, Vancouver police changing its ways with transgender people

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      Out on the streets, Angela Dawson is known as Roller Girl.

      Decked out in colourful clothing, she directs traffic at busy Vancouver intersections on her rollerblades, unafraid of the dangers.  

      She also had the courage to take on the police establishment.

      Because of that, the police board is taking steps to improve the interaction of officers with transgender people like her.

      Following Dawson’s successful complaint before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, a recommendation has been submitted to the Vancouver police board regarding the way officers should identify trans people.

      Up for approval in a board meeting Thursday (June 16), the policy directs officers to refer to a transgender person in that individual’s chosen name and matching pronoun.

      For example, trans women will be called by their preferred female names, and as a ‘she’.

      The proposed procedure also provides that when completing the narrative of a report, police officers shall use the person’s chosen name and appropriate pronoun.

      When filing the basic information for the person in police reports, the policy directs that officers use the basic identification information indicated in the person’s government-issued identification documents.

      According to the report submitted to the board, this strikes a balance between the legal responsibility of officers to “verify identity in official reports, while being respectful to the transgender person’s right to be referred to by name and gender identity they have chosen”.

      Dawson complained before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal that officers called her a ‘he’, and identified with her male name.

      In a ruling issued on March 24, 2015, tribunal member Catherine McCreary determined that the police board has “no policy with respect to the way to identify trans people, with whom it deals, either as victim, witness, or perpetrator”.

      “I find that the manner in which trans people are identified and dealt-with concerning their identity amounts to systemic discrimination on the part of VPB [Vancouver police board],” McCreary also wrote.

      Dawson also complained that while in police custody, she didn’t receive proper medical care required for her post-operative care following her gender-reassignment surgery. The tribunal ruled that she has also established discrimination on this one.

      The report before the police board notes that the Vancouver Police Department had already changed its jail procedures so incidents like this will not happen again.