CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Roughly four months after the assault of a transgender woman in downtown Charleston brought the relationship between the city’s police department and the LGBTQ community to the forefront, the department announced Friday that all new hires moving forward will receive gender identity training.
In-house training was conducted for current employees back in October and the first group of new hires received the training on Wednesday.
“The men and women of the Charleston Police Department will always work to educate ourselves thoroughly, intentionally and consistently, so we are most capable of treating everyone with the highest levels of dignity and respect, while best meeting the needs of persons of all races, beliefs and backgrounds," Charleston police chief Luther Reynolds said. "We are excited this is another step in achieving the best outcomes possible.”
The training covers gender identity terms and concepts, the department’s fair and impartial policing policy, microaggressions and implicit bias issues. The training is the work of a collaboration between the “We Are Family” group, Alliance for Full Acceptance and the department.
AFFA also held a town hall event with the department in September, which Reynolds attended, in order to hear the concerns of the LGBTQ community. It was at that town hall event where Reynolds announced that an arrest had been made in connection with the initial assault case which spurred the further conversation.
“Some people would say this is progressive, this is forward-leaning. I would really just say it’s doing the right thing for the right reasons,” Reynolds said.
He said the training may be new to some agencies in the region but that many law enforcement departments nationally already require it.
“There’s nothing really complicated about this,” he said of the new education efforts. “If we want to be a good police department, we need to understand everybody. We are protectors of all. It doesn’t matter what your race is, what your nationality is, what your faith is, if you’re in the LGBTQ community. I am passionate about protecting and looking out for others.”
This CPD effort first started after a transgender woman was assaulted downtown in August.
The department was criticized about how they handled it.
At a Town Hall at that time, Reynolds promised they’d try to do better.
Reynolds said he and his officers have learned a lot.
“The LGBTQ community has been bullied, they’ve been assaulted, they’ve picked on," he said."Ask anybody in that community and they’ll share very specific stories about how people to this day call them names, single them out, how they treat them poorly just because maybe how they look, what they’re wearing, how they’re walking down the street. I would say I have a major problem with that. As a leader, I think it’s important that I stand out against hate and mistreatment of anybody in our community.”
While Wednesday’s training was for new hires, CPD gave in-house training in October for current police officers.
All future new hires will receive this training as well, both sworn and non-sworn staff.
Within minutes of today’s announcement, opponents were posting online.
The Chief’s message to them: “ Educate yourself. Spend a little time with people in that community. Have empathy. My definition of empathy is being able to walk in somebody else’s shoes.”