The Atlanta Police Department and 60 to 70 of the city’s transgender community and supporters engaged in a sometimes heated dialogue in a Thursday night community meeting at the Rush Center, but walked away with a pledge by Atlanta police to work closer with the trans community on rewriting policies concerning the community.
The event included a panel discussion featuring several APD officers as well as Robin Shahar, Mayor Kasim Reed’s LGBT community liaison. Several other members of the department were in attendance as well, including Chief George Turner.
The format of the meeting, in which attendees wrote out their questions on notecards from which Shahar would choose which to address, led to several objections from the audience who felt they weren’t able to ask follow-up questions. Shahar pivoted and allowed audience members to address the panel with questions from their seats throughout the rest of the evening.
A major sticking point the trans community raised throughout the meeting was the methods by which the department created their Standard Operating Procedure on “transgender interactions,” and whether enough of the community’s voices were included.
Deputy Chief Joseph Spillane pledged to work with the community on updating the policies, saying, “Standard Operating Procedures are something we can rewrite tomorrow.” However he did note that there are legal constraints and they want to make sure not to duplicate anything already covered in the document.
Atlanta police vowed to continue the dialogue with the trans community and address other issues of concern including choice over having a male or female police officer perform searches and the department’s handling of sex workers.