August 12, 2015 at 12:45 pm EDT | by Steve Charing
DOJ investigators hear from community
Loretta Lynch, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Our goal is to work with the community, public officials and law enforcement alike to create a stronger, better Baltimore,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. (Photo by ibtimes.com; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Ken Jiretsu, a transgender man who has three special needs children, was in need of assistance from the Baltimore Police Department. One of his children, a 15-year-old son, had to be escorted to a hospital by police because of mental health issues. When police arrived at his Baltimore home last February, the contingent included one female officer and eight male officers.

The female officer “misgendered” Jiretsu, repeatedly calling him “ma’am.” He kept correcting her, explaining that he is a transgender man and should be referred to accordingly. The officer replied, “How am I supposed to know,” according to Jiretsu, while the other officers laughed.

He asked the first set of officers to leave since they could not help and called 911 again to request different officers. Some of the same officers returned with a few new ones and the same situation occurred. “Every time he would correct them they would continue to misgender him out of blatant disrespect,” said Jiretsu.

This is one of the experiences that members of the LGBT community shared with attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which is in the midst of a civil investigation of the Baltimore Police Department “to see if there are broad systematic practices causing constitutional rights to be violated.” The investigators are looking into police stops, searches arrests, uses of force and discriminatory policies that may have violated the civil rights of citizens.

The DOJ investigation, which was launched on May 8 shortly after the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray who died from injuries sustained while in police custody in Baltimore, will include riding with the police, reviewing documents and files and speaking with citizens who have had encounters with police.

“Our goal is to work with the community, public officials and law enforcement alike to create a stronger, better Baltimore,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch when announcing the investigation.

Lynch indicated that if violations are found, the investigation will result in a “court-enforceable agreement” to change the practices of the Baltimore Police Department.

More than 25 community members attended a meeting at the Chase Brexton Health Services Community Room on Aug. 6. There were introductory remarks given by the DOJ representatives, which included the distribution of an “Incident Information Form” that requests details pertaining to a negative encounter with the police—in the past or should an incident occur in the future—to be submitted to the DOJ.

The four DOJ attorneys present held separate one-on-one meetings with LGBT individuals who related their personal stories. The attorneys listened to these accounts and recorded notes. A report will be issued, but one of the attorneys, Mike Songer, cautioned that it could take up to a year and a half for the report to be released.

The meeting with DOJ was arranged by Bryanna A. Jenkins, founder of Baltimore Transgender United. “We’re creating a new narrative getting community members to tell their own stories so they can save themselves and the community,” Jenkins told the Blade.

Anyone with relevant information regarding the conduct of Baltimore Police Department officers is urged to contact DOJ by email at Community.Baltimore@usdoj.gov or calling toll-free at 1-844-401-3733.

In addition, you may submit forms, which are being made available by community members on Facebook to: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, 601 D Street NW, Rm. 5907A, Washington, D.C. 20004 Attn: DJ# 207-35

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