On Wednesday, Minnesota Senator Al Franken sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey seeking answers on the reporting of this year's record level of anti-transgender violence. Franken wrote the two-page letter from his position as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I write to express serious concern about the alarming number of homicides and violent crimes targeting transgender and gender nonconforming people. I strongly urge the U.S. Department of Justice to work with state and local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of these incidents, and to redouble its efforts to ensure the accurate reporting of all bias-motivated crimes.
Taking note that [local] police and some media reports misidentified [recently murdered] Zella Ziona as male, Franken says federal law doesn’t require state or local authorities to report incidents of anti-trans violence. The senator calls for an update on the Justice Department’s work on tracking bias-motivated crime, saying underreporting anti-trans violence “obscures the threats many of our citizens endure every day."
I applaud the Department of Justice and the FBI for their enforcement efforts to date, as well as the Department’s work to train federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to respond appropriately and effectively to reports of bias-motivated violence. However, accurate data on the frequency and severity of attacks is needed in order to direct prevention and enforcement efforts to the jurisdictions most in need of assistance.
There are indications that distrust in law enforcement among LGBT communities, and inaccurate or disrespectful reporting regarding transgender victims, have been barriers to investigations. The Department should develop a model policy for law enforcement agencies on interactions with LGBT and gender nonconforming individuals and guidance on public communications regarding crimes against members of the transgender community.
Measures must be put in place to track anti-transgender hate crimes at the state and local level. We urge implementation of a model policy to help law enforcement treat transgender people with the dignity and respect they deserve, and to communicate with the public appropriately about transgender people when they are the victims of hate crimes.
--Michael Silverman, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, who applauded Franken
On Thursday House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the record number of murders of transgender women this year.
We can pass a law, we can help to break down barriers in people’s minds. Now we have to get to their hearts, but it is heartbreaking to hear of violence against anyone, but the vulnerability of our transgender community.
We want to listen specifically to the transgender community to hear what some of their suggestions might be as we go forward, as we see this sadness. But we always want to listen to the people who are most affected by it.
At the White House Press Secretary Eric Shultz was also asked about the epidemic of anti-trans violence.
I saw the heart-wrenching report out of Baltimore [re: Ziona] that you mentioned, and I think it’s fair to say that the thoughts and prayers of those of us at the White House are with the family,
I don’t have sort of new legislative or official reviews to announce today. Obviously, the president’s record on this is well-known.
Schultz said he wasn't aware of Franken's letter, but added:
I will say generally speaking the president has been very strong in his advocacy in increased transparency and increased data. I know that’s something we worked very hard on both at the Justice Department in terms of the law enforcement arena, but also at other areas of the administration. So, generally speaking, the president believes the more information, the better.