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Sexual diversity training for police

By Ben Lumpkin Daily Planet Staff
Tuesday March 20, 2001

City Council members, community activists and others gathered late Monday afternoon to celebrate the first day of training for the Berkeley Police Department in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. 

When the training is complete, the Berkeley Police Department will be the first department in the county and possibly the world to train all its employees in LGBT issues, said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. 

The goal of the training is to improve the manner in which police “approach, react to, connect with and respond to the transgender community in Berkeley,” said Darryl Moore, senior management analyst for the public works department and an early advocate of the training. 

“Last year in San Francisco alone over half of all violent incidents against (the LGBT community) were perpetrated by police or security personnel,” said Catherine Ahn, a senator for the Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley. 

“How (police) treat minorities is important for everybody because it sets the standard,” said Berkeley resident Laura Mankikar, whose partner is transsexual. 

City Councilmember Dona Spring said the training is important because it will help police “understand the discrimination that (gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender) people face and the hate crimes they can be subjected to.” 

“In some places in this country gays and lesbians are losing their rights,” Spring said. “This legitimizes their gains and issues (in Berkeley). It’s really a conscious-raising event.” 

Police will be trained in groups of 25-30 over the next couple of months, Worthington said.  

The six-hour training sessions are divided into two parts. The first two hour session covers the history of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community and laws affecting this community. The second and longer segment deals the transgender community. 

“There are a lot more questions and a lot more confusion” about transgender people, Worthington said. 

Officers are given definitions of terms and overview of social issues impacting the transgender community. They study some case histories, learn how to search transgender people and place them into custody, and review hate crime and domestic violence scenarios as they might be experienced by transgender people. 

“A lot of times, not knowing, people make certain assumptions about a situation,” said Berkeley City Manager Weldon Rucker. “This gives (the police department) another level of understanding.” 

Rucker said he expected LGBT training to be instituted in other city departments in the future.  

Moore said it was particularly important for the training to be instituted for city employees who come into regular contact with the public, adding that it made sense to start with police “because they are the front line.” 

“This is not just a token training. This is almost a full day of training.” said Frank Gurucharri, executive director of the Pacific Center for Human Growth, which provides community services for gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender people. 

“When you do sensitivity training about people, they become people, and you move one step out of stereotypical relationships,” he said.