A group of advocates upset with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s handling of transgender shootings spoke out at the City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
A 24-year-old transgender woman was shot to death Sunday at the Baymeadows area Quality Inn marking the third trans homicide this year in Jacksonville, and the fourth shot.
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Since this year’s first homicide of transgender woman Celine Walker in February, advocates have been calling on JSO to call the victims by their identified genders and chosen names, even if that’s not what’s on their IDs.
“One of our principal concerns here is that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office continues to disrespect the dead and the living when they misgender these individuals,” Pastor Avery Garner of St. Luke’s Community Church said Tuesday evening. “These were black women and we recognize that and we insist on the respect that they deserve.”
Garner, whose church is mostly made up of LGBT members, said the transgender shootings signify a trend that JSO should be acknowledging.
“And the fact that we have not heard on this matter is unconscionable and needs to be corrected,” he said.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Christian Hancock said it’s JSO’s desire to foster a good relationship with all members of the community.
“It is not an act of disrespect that we refer to the victim’s by their legal names,” he said in an emailed statement. “As an agency, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office determines the identification and sex of a deceased victim by using the victim’s government-issued ID or that which is determined by the medical examiner.”
Those critical of JSO’s policy believe misgendering a transgender victim could impede on the investigation.
“We need to see and LGBTQ advocacy officer on the ground interacting with this community so that there’s better communication, identification and solving of these murders that are still outstanding,” said Equality Florida’s director of transgender inclusion Gina Duncan at City Hall.
Hancock said that during investigations detectives utilize every tool and avenue available to address and investigate these crimes in an effort to solve them.
Duncan said she’s been reaching out to JSO for months offering the department transgender awareness training and model transgender policies other departments are using. In February, WJCT reported on how Seattle police handle transgender identification.
Jacksonville LGBT advocates have been calling on JSO to appoint a formal LGBT liaison position for some time. Instead JSO said it established what’s called the Sheriff’s Watch program, a network of citizen-led groups that meet monthly to discuss law enforcement matters.
JSO officers attend the meetings to listen and provide information.
“We would invite all citizens wanting to be heard, to attend one of several Sheriff’s Watch meetings throughout the City to voice concerns,” Hancock said.
A Trans Lives Matter rally is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Duval County Courthouse.
Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.