Comments on the Final Report of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing

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May 19, 2015
Hayley Gorenberg

President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing just finalized its report addressing the epidemic of police violence and discriminatory policing across the country. The White House also released recommendations yesterday by the President's Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group, which identified important first steps toward rolling back aspects of the militarization of policing. Lambda Legal was among seven LGBT and HIV advocacy organizations that formed a working group to develop recommendations to the President’s Task Force about how to effectively address the violence and discrimination that our communities face. 

An important priority for Lambda Legal, our policing and criminal justice work includes advocacy to end criminalizing HIV status, and to end use of condoms as evidence of prostitution-related charges; cases on transgender prisoners' access to medical treatment and safety in custody; work to interrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline”; the landmark Supreme Court decision striking down all sodomy laws in the United States, Lawrence v. Texas; challenges to "sting" operations targeting gay and bisexual men; and a recent national survey of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people and people living with HIV, focused on the communities' experience with the criminal justice system and policing and the intersections of discrimination for people of color .

We testified in-person before the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing on January 30, 2015,  and also submitted written testimony that included evidence from federal investigations of police departments and data from sister organizations and Lambda Legal’s own survey of LGBT people and people living with HIV, Protected and Served? in which we compiled information from thousands of people in our communities and related  numerous stories about how law enforcement agents engage in LGBT-targeted discrimination, harassment, and even sexual assault.

Read our full testimony

The final report from the Task Force to the President references responses we collected in the Protected and Served? survey -- for example,  “25 percent of respondents with any recent police contact reported at least one type of misconduct or harassment, such as being accused of an offense they did not commit, verbal assault, being arrested for an offense they did not commit, sexual harassment, physical assault, or sexual assault.”

Read the full Protected and Served? report:

The recommendations made by the Task Force to the President represent an important first step. We urge the Administration to adopt the recommendations of the Task Force and move swiftly toward effective implementation.

We highlight the report’s recommendations, consistent with those made in submissions to the Task Force endorsed by over 45 LGBTQ organizations, encouraging local police departments to

  • implement comprehensive policies banning police profiling, including profiling based on sexual orientation and gender identity and possession of condoms as evidence of intent to engage in prostitution-related offenses,
  • develop policies with respect to interactions, arrest processing, searches and housing of LGBT people, and
  • ensure effective policies to address sexual harassment and assault of members of the public by police officers.

We urge the Department of Justice to work with LGBT organizations that have successfully advocated for effective policies at the local level to move swiftly to issue models for local law enforcement agencies.

The opportunity for LGBT advocacy organizations to present recommendations to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has been critical, but without timely implementation, LGBT people and people living with HIV, and particularly people of color in our communities, will continue to experience discrimination and abuse at every level of the criminal justice system.

We look forward to continuing our work with our sister LGBT organizations, other civil rights groups, and the Obama Administration to progress from recommendations to realities.

You can view the full report and read key recommendations addressing LGBT experiences of policing: