The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) declared on Wednesday that it will no longer disclose a victim’s gender to prevent “misgendering,” as LGBT activists had demanded.
At the same press conference, the agency said it would no longer report a victim’s race. The new rules only apply to “proactively disclosed” material. There will be no effect on public records or crime rates. Criminal suspects are likewise excluded from the policy’s scope.
Heather Hough, chief of staff for the MPD, has described the new policy as maintaining the privacy and dignity “of all victims.” Hough said, “MPD wants to offer the finest service possible for our whole community.”
After the police wrote a report last year that misidentified the chosen gender of three people slain in the city, LGBTQ liaison Sgt Guadalupe Velasquez of the MPD sought the policy adjustment earlier this year.
She said based on the interactions she had, when asked whether the department’s past “misgendering” of trans-identifying victims had “damaged the LGBTQ community, the answer was “yes.”
Velasquez said, “We don’t always have someone on-site to make sure that we’re getting it correctly,” which means that the gender of a victim is “not always readily accessible.”
She defended the new regulation, saying she believes this is a method to ensure the department doesn’t get it wrong. Velasquez thinks the policy will help the department’s efforts to be more welcoming to the LGBT community.
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council President Bill Lueders criticized the policy, saying that the public has a right to know details about the demographics of those who have been victims of crime.
The first reaction to many perceived issues is to deny access to information, Lueders said, and he found that “worrisome.”
Director of the journalism school at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Kathleen Bartzen Culver, shared these worries.
Are women at a higher risk of becoming crime victims?
Do men face more danger?
Do transgender people face unique threats?
Culver said that the ability to go into the data in search of patterns and other issues is especially important.