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Rep. Keith Ellison sent a letter to the Department of Justice on Thursday asking for the department to bring its Transgender Law Enforcement Training opportunities to the Minneapolis Police Department and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. DOJ announced the new training for law enforcement earlier this year.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Director Lum:

I am writing to request Department of Justice (DOJ) Transgender Law Enforcement Training for my district and to urge your office to assist in improving the relationship between the Minneapolis transgender community and local law enforcement. Last month I had the opportunity to meet with transgender leaders in my district. Following a robust discussion, a consensus emerged that many transgender people are concerned about their interactions with law enforcement officials.

Participants in the discussion raised concerns about racism and transphobia in the community, discrimination by law enforcement, and policies like misgendering while in prison that endangers transgender inmates. The case of CeCe McDonald was cited as a salient example of how interactions with law enforcement have created fear in the transgender community. The injustice associated with Ms. McDonald’s case illustrates the necessity for transgender law enforcement training in Minneapolis.

The transgender community faces pervasive discrimination. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released a report that confirms what many in the transgender community know from firsthand experience; violence against the LGBT population has increased dramatically and transgender people suffer the highest proportion of violence from civilians and law enforcement. Discrimination from law enforcement has become so common that many transgender victims are too afraid to report incidents of violence. Officials at the Minneapolis Police Department and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office recognize the importance of addressing these concerns and have expressed their support for this training.

As you know, in March the Community Relations Service announced it would begin offering Transgender Law Enforcement Training for bureaus across the country. This is an important step towards making our transgender citizens safe. It is an important opportunity to build an environment of trust in our community. I encourage you to send a representative from the DOJ to meet with leaders in the Minneapolis transgender community and me to discuss the program and ways to foster inclusiveness.

I look forward to working with you, the LGBT community in Minnesota, and local law enforcement.

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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.


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