March 24, 2011

New Orleans Police Unfairly Going For LGBT People

A recently released report by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found a pattern of systemic problems within the New Orleans Police Department, including use of lethal force, racial profiling and discriminatory policing.
One particularly disturbing section of the report (.pdf) found that police unfairly targeted gay and transgender people.
Under a 205-year-old Louisiana law, authorities can require people convicted of selling their bodies to register as a sex offender. The law classifies solicitation of oral or anal sex as a crime against nature.
"We also found reasonable cause to believe that NOPD practices lead to discriminatory treatment of LGBT individuals," the report said. "In particular, transgender women complained that NOPD officers improperly target and arrest them for prostitution, sometimes fabricating evidence of solicitation for compensation."
"Moreover, transgender residents reported that officers are likelier, because of their gender identity, to charge them under the state's 'crimes against nature' statute -- a statute whose history reflects anti-LGBT sentiment. Multiple convictions under the 'crimes against nature' statute, unlike Louisiana's general prostitution statute, require registration as a sex offender."
Nearly 40 percent of the Orleans Parish sex offender registry was made up of people convicted of solicitation crimes, according to the report. In addition, 80 percent of those convicted of crimes against nature were African American, suggesting a racial bias.
In February, several women and a transgender man filed suit against the parish, arguing that requiring them to register as sex offenders was unconstitutional and discriminatory.
"The toll it takes is devastating," Deon Haywood, director of Women With A Vision, told reporters. "They did what they did to survive and put food on the table."
Louisiana is the only state with a sex offender registration requirement for those convicted of selling oral or anal sex.

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