13 Jul 2022

Human Rights Commission urges police to address treatment of transgender people

3:24 pm on 13 July 2022

The Human Rights Commission is urging police to address their treatment of transgender people after an officer broke a woman's ankle and misgendered her in reports.

Auckland, New Zealand - October 10, 2019 : Close up of a New Zealand police officer's uniform and badge

Photo: 123rf

The officers involved repeatedly referred to the woman with male pronouns, despite acknowledging she was transgender, an Independent Police Conduct Authority report said.

Senior human rights adviser Vee Blackwood said the officers' behaviour indicated deeper cultural issues within the police force.

They said the incident, which was yesterday ruled as excessive force, was far from the first of its kind.

"A 2019 report showed that 42 percent of trans and gender diverse people had reported that police knew their correct gender and pronouns but refused to use them," Blackwood said.

"Nine percent of those that interacted with police had either been verbally or physically harassed."

Counties Manukau District Commander Superintendent Shanan Gray declined to be interviewed, but noted that "respect and valuing identity are two of our core values."

He also said the woman's pronouns had been updated within the national intelligence application.

But Blackwood said in order to prevent future incidents, police needed to enforce explicit rules.

"It's really important that police develop and implement policy that ensures correct names and pronouns are always used.

"We all have the right to be free from discrimination and treated with fairness and respect."

Blackwood said they had heard similar complaints before, and that the Human Rights Commission was very concerned that transphobia could be a systemic issue.

But they said it was up to the police to consider how they responded to the problem.

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