Vancouver pursues more police reforms triggered by transgender ‘Roller Girl’ Angela Dawson

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      Two years after her successful discrimination complaint, Angela Dawson continues to shape policing in Vancouver.

      Known by many as ‘Roller Girl’, the transgender woman has made the Vancouver police change its approach to encompass a wider range of gender identities.

      On Thursday (July 20), the Vancouver police board will vote on more reforms that are respectful of transgender people.

      The changes relate to searches and transport of transgender prisoners.

      The measures follow the adoption by the Vancouver police board in June 2016 of a recommendation directing officers to refer to transgender individuals in their preferred names and pronouns.

      The said policy regarding the identification of transgender persons was in compliance with a ruling in 2015 by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal on a complaint filed by Dawson.

      Dawson had complained that officers didn’t treat her as a woman, called her a "he", and identified her with her legal name.

      The tribunal ordered the police board to adopt policies to prevent discrimination of transgender people.

      The board was also directed by the tribunal to pay Dawson $15,000 in damages.

      Dawson is a familiar figure in Vancouver. She has a liking for colourful clothes, and is known for trying to direct traffic on her rollerblades.

      Drazen Manojlovic, director of the planning, research and audit section of the police department, wrote the report recommending to the board a number of changes to the searches and transport of transgender people in custody.

      The civilian policing manager stated in his report that will be taken up on July 20 that the measures are designed to be “more reflective of the rights and needs of transgender prisoners”.

      One policy seeks to allow a transgender person in custody to request the gender of the officer making a search.

      “Police departments such as Durham Regional, Edmonton, Hamilton, Los Angeles, Niagara Regional, Peel Regional, Lethbridge Regional, Port Moody, Victoria, and Seattle, all allow the transgender prisoner to request the gender of the officer conducting the search,” Manojlovic wrote in his report.

      A second measure is to allow split searches when requested by a person in custody.

      “The rationale is that some transgender people will be at different phases of transition and it may be more appropriate for a male member to search one portion of the body while the other portion of the body is searched by a female member,” the civilian policing manager explained.

      The third is a stop to the current practice of asking prisoners a set of questions to verify transgender status.

      The fourth refers to the return of “special clothing or prosthetics” after a search to the person while in custody.

      The fifth measure seeks to allow a prisoner to choose between an unoccupied pre-hold cell or an occupied pre-hold cell that matches the person’s stated gender identity while the booking process is being done.