The California State Legislature is currently considering a bill that will require LGBT awareness training for law enforcement officers and dispatchers. The proposed bill will add a section to other similar requirements included in section 13519 of the California Penal Code. Over the years, the Legislature has put into law requirements for law enforcement to be trained on a variety of topics that many would consider to be common sense training needs. Vehicle pursuits, domestic violence, and workplace harassment prevention, are just a few of the training topics one might assume law enforcement would have taken the initiative to provide training on its own, but alas, the profession did not until it was required. Such is the case for training about sexual orientation and gender identity minorities. While reasoning for this training might seem obvious, the following is the case and reasoning for why this training needs to be required across the country in every state.
The bill being proposed will require training for law enforcement officers at all levels of the organization, including chiefs and sheriffs, and dispatchers to address at a minimum the following five topics.
- The difference between sexual orientation and gender identity and how these two aspects of identity relate to each other and to race, culture and religion.
- The terminology used to identify and describe sexual orientation and gender identity.
- How create an inclusive workplace within law enforcement for sexual orientation and gender identity minorities.
- Major moments in history related to sexual orientation, gender identity minorities and law enforcement.
- How law enforcement can respond effectively to domestic violence and hate crimes involving sexual orientation and gender identity minorities.
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards (POST) is the agency responsible for establishing minimum hiring standards and training requirements for law enforcement officers and dispatchers. POST has established required curriculum for all of the 39 regional law enforcement training centers that deliver the Basic Law Enforcement Course (basic academy) and Basic Dispatch Course. POST is responsible for 96,037 law enforcement officers and dispatchers (full time peace officers, reserve officers, and dispatchers) that work at over 500 different law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
New law enforcement officers and dispatchers currently receive training on cultural diversity and workplace harassment prevention in required basic training programs (basic academies courses). Law enforcement officers also receive training on response to domestic violence and hate crimes. The existing required curriculum includes minimal mention of sexual orientation and gender identity minorities. In fact, the California POST Training and Testing Specifications for the basic police academy learning domain 42, which includes cultural diversity, there is no mention at all of sexual orientation or gender identity. The inclusion of these subjects is left to the discretion of the 39 individual training academies. The student workbook for learning domain 42 does make minimal mention of LGBT co-workers, but it does not come close to effectively addressing the five topics described above. There is also minimal mention of sexual orientation and gender identity minorities in domestic violence and hate crimes investigations. It’s also clear, based on the studies to be mentioned below and recent hate crime statistics that existing training requirements have been ineffective in preventing incidents of workplace harassment and discrimination and incidents of domestic violence and hate crimes impacting LGBTQ+ people in the community.
Sources Of Information
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Williams Institute has studied sexual orientation and gender identity minority conditions in society and in the workforce since 2001. They have published many studies applicable to this topic including two recent specific studies about sexual orientation and gender identity minorities in law enforcement. The 2013 study looked at how sexual orientation and gender identity minorities are treated within law enforcement. In 2015, the Williams Institute published a study about how law enforcement relates to the greater and external LGBTQ+ community. In both of these studies, researchers concluded that “Discrimination and harassment by law enforcement based on sexual orientation and gender identity is an ongoing and pervasive problem in LGBT communities.” The Williams Institute also found that of all the different types of municipal workplaces, such as public works, education, fire departments, and law enforcement, the law enforcement workplace is one of the most common places where complaints of workplace harassment and discrimination arise.
Each law enforcement agency has its own leadership and management structure functioning within the same system of laws, but functions independently within a local system of governance. The culture of these agencies varies greatly and the training law enforcement employees receive beyond the minimums required by POST vary greatly as well. Within the scope of sexual orientation and gender identity minorities, there are programs in San Francisco, Napa, and Los Angeles, just to name a few, that are robust and inclusive already of what this bill proposes, but these programs are few and far between. The legal requirements of this bill will insure all 96,037 law enforcement employees receive training to address the service disparities and workplace climate documented by the Williams Institute studies.
Reasoning For The Content
1. Sexual orientation and gender identity are two different aspects of who we are and are independent of any other aspect of identity, such as race and nationality. Sexual orientation and gender identity minorities exist in every race, nationality, ethnicity, and community in California. These two aspects of who we are transcend everything else. This means that, no matter the demographics or geographic location in the state, sexual orientation and gender identity minorities exist. These populations have been traditionally invisible and hidden and, of course, exist within the ranks of law enforcement as well.
It is also important for law enforcement officers and dispatchers to understand how sexual orientation and gender identity relate to race, culture and religious traditions as often these intersections are at the heart of domestic violence, hate violence, and youth homelessness.
2. The language we use to describe sexual orientation and gender identity enable those in the minority to relate to the majority. Law enforcement officers and dispatchers use terminology as part of descriptors of sexual orientation and gender identity in reports and in other forms of communication. The use of proper terminology and context is critical to demonstrate respect and trust while interacting with and serving sexual orientation and gender identity minorities.
3. The 2013 Williams Institute Study about the law enforcement workplace found that “employment discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity is an ongoing and pervasive problem in law enforcement and corrections departments.” Millions of tax payer dollars are being paid out to settle unlawful harassment and discrimination cases occuring in California law enforcement agencies. Organizational culture plays a large part in how sexual orientation and gender identity minorities are treated within the law enforcement workplace. Law enforcement administrators and executives have a large role in establishing and changing organizational culture, so it is imperative that these individuals receive on how to create an inclusive workplace. The training is equally important for line-level law enforcement officers and dispatchers since much of the harassment experienced by sexual orientation and gender identity minorities originates from peers. According to the 2013 Williams Institute Study, “establishing a culture of acceptance in the police force and the surrounding community is likely to enhance workplace morale, improve community policing and increase overall safety.”
4. Like many minority groups, law enforcement has a history of violence and confrontation with sexual orientation and gender identity minority groups. From the early 20th century through the infamous “Stonewall Riots” of 1969, law enforcement has engaged in targeted enforcement of the community in ways that have created a climate of mistrust. Though the relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQ+ community has improved since 1969, the 2015 Williams Institute Study found that “LGBT individuals and communities face profiling, discrimination and harassment at the hands of law enforcement officers. Data from a wide range of sources show that such harassment and discrimination is greatest for LGBT people of color, transgender persons and youth.”
5. Since marriage equality for same-sex couples became a reality nationwide in 2017, the UCLA Williams Institute reports that “as of June 2017, nearly 1.1 million LGBT people in the United States are married to someone of the same sex, implying that more than 547,000 same-sex couples are married nationwide.” California’s domestic violence laws recognize marriage as a relationship no matter where the marriage originates. As more same-sex couples become visible, so will the incidents of domestic violence. In fact, the rates of domestic violence in same-sex relationships is the same as it is in opposite-sex relationships (Center For American Progress). Absent training, law enforcements officers and dispatchers receiving and responding to calls of domestic violence in same-sex relationships are likely to apply stereotypes and assumptions based on opposite-sex relationship norms. A lack of training may even cause an officer to not recognize a domestic violence crime as having occurred between to combatants of the same gender. Just as law enforcement receives specialized training on how to handle the sensitive nature of domestic violence calls as well as the legal requirements of such calls, law enforcement officers and dispatchers need training specific to sexual orientation and gender identity minorities who are involved in incidents of domestic violence.
Violence toward sexual orientation and gender identity minorities has always been a significant problem. FBI and California Department of Justice statistics, based on reported hate crimes, have shown that sexual orientation as a bias motivation in hate crimes consistent ranks either second or third as the most common type of motive in hate crimes. Traditionally, violent hate crimes committed against sexual orientation and gender identity minorities tend to be extreme. Gay men and transgender women are particularly vulnerable. Data from the California Department of Justice and FBI in 2016 shows an increase in reported hate crimes. Non-profit groups monitoring hate violence are reporting significant increases in hate violence directed at sexual orientation and gender identity minorities in 2017. Law enforcement officers and dispatchers need to be aware of these trends in order to more accurately detect, document and investigate report hate crimes. Existing California State law requires local law enforcement agencies to report to the California Department of Justice all reported hate crimes, but still some do not comply. If the responding officer does not detect these crimes, they will not be reported correctly.
Law enforcement’s ability to respond appropriately to incidents of domestic violence and hate crimes directly impact trust from the community. When ignorance and overt prejudice influence a law enforcement officer’s interaction with LGBTQ+ victims, trust in law enforcement is eroded.
The two UCLA Williams Institute studies referenced throughout this paper provide overwhelming evidence to support a requirement for law enforcement officers and dispatchers to receive training on sexual orientation and gender identity minorities. The studies provide evidence supporting the five required areas of training specified in this legislation. History has already demonstrated that unless this training is required by law, the law enforcement profession will not take action to provide this training on its own.
The goal with any training requirement, such as the one described in this bill, is to make law enforcement more effective and to give law enforcement officers and dispatchers what they need to be effective in serving the public and responding to calls for service. Being effective here also means maintaining an inclusive workplace that is free from harassment and discrimination and one that doesn’t create a financial burden on public funds from the continuous payout of settlements for violations of employment law.