Protected and Served?: Using Our Stories to Uncover and Stop Government Misconduct

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July 22, 2013

I was arrested and charged with prostitution at a local casino. While the case was subsequently dismissed without going to court, during my arrest I was physically and verbally assaulted by the arresting officers and others. I was put in handcuffs so tight that my wrists swelled up and turned purple. My face was shoved into a wall while I was handcuffed. The officers threatened, mocked and demeaned me for being transsexual. Natalie, Las Vegas

My incarceration was now nine years ago, during which I was harassed for my sexual orientation and sexually assaulted by a prison guard. Jason, Arlington, MA

Unfortunately, Natalie's and Jason’s stories are far too common. Too often, when LGBT people and people with HIV interact with police, school security, courts and the prison system, we are targeted for abuse and mistreatment and denied fair access to the services we need. While the criminalization of our communities is hardly new, Lambda Legal is launching a new Government Misconduct Share Your Story Project to collect and highlight the real and horrifying accounts of misconduct by the police and criminal justice systems that are rarely made public.

In 2012, with the help of more than 50 partner organizations, Lambda Legal conducted its Protected and Served? Survey of LGBT/HIV Contact with Police, Courts and Prisons. Of the more than 2,300 completed surveys, 25% of respondents with any recent police contact reported at least one type of misconduct or harassment, such as: being accused of an offense they did not commit; verbal assault; being arrested for an offense they did not commit; sexual harassment; physical assault or sexual assault. Respondents of color (37%), respondents who were low-income (37%) and transgender respondents (39%) all were much more likely to report an experience of at least one type of misconduct or harassment.

We will release a comprehensive report of the survey findings later this year, along with recommendations for change. The stories we collect will help bring our data to life, highlight successes and help us push for reforms. Whether you experienced this kind of discrimination yourself, or if you’ve witnessed someone else being mistreated, or even if you’ve have a positive experience, we want to hear your story.

Through this effort and our ongoing litigation, education and advocacy, Lambda Legal will continue challenging the ways our communities are criminalized and treated unfairly by those we expect to uphold the law. By sharing your story, you can help us esure that for our communities, “Protected and Served” isn't just a slogan.

Roger from Seattle shared, “I served on my local police department’s LGBT task force. I helped design and deliver the first LGBT police sensitivity training. I felt that the training was productive and successful.”

Share your story.