BreakOUT! released two new tools recently to help keep LGBTQ youth, especially young transgender women, safe on the streets of New Orleans. The first, the “BreakOUT! Guide to Street Safety and Preserving Your Rights with the Police” is a 4-page guide to knowing your rights with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). Unlike other “Know Your Rights” guides, the BreakOUT! guide recognizes the complexity and risk involved in advocating for your rights and is also a tool for member outreach and development.
If an officer feels their authority is being questioned or that they are being disrespected, it may escalate the situation or, in extreme cases, the officer may become retaliatory. As a result, many young people may be fearful that they could become less safe with law enforcement when they aggresively advocate for themselves or assert their constitutional rights. The BreakOUT! guide recognizes the complexity of advocating for yourself and provides youth with concrete tips they can use after assessing their own safety and risk factors. BreakOUT! also recognizes that even though an officer’s activity may be unlawful, such as an illegal stop, it does not guarantee that you will not be arrested. However, the BreakOUT! Guide to Street Safety offers tips for things youth can say or do that, while may not prevent you from being arrested, could help you later in court.
Perhaps most importantly, the guide offers information on how to report police misconduct or harassment with BreakOUT! As an official intake site for the Independent Police Monitor, citizens can file complaints that will be forwarded to the IPM or file complaints for BreakOUT! to use in our reports and advocacy efforts. All complaints can be made anonymously.
BreakOUT! also released Member Identification Cards for LGBTQ youth members to help inform their interactions with the police. The membership cards, developed with assistance from the Congress of Day Laborers, is a tool to both keep youth safe as well as help inform the police officer’s interactions with them. The card shows their photograph, legal name, date of birth, and a list of their rights on the back, similar to that used by members of the Congress of Day Laborers who have experienced similar profiling with law enforcement. However, the BreakOUT! card also shows youth’s preferred name and preferred gender pronoun for use by the police. The purpose of the card is to situate our members within a larger community, reduce the need to speak with the police during a tense interaction, and clearly instruct officers on the appropriate name and pronoun to use with transgender youth, making for a more respectful experience for both parties.
These two new tools will go a long way toward helping BreakOUT! members and constituency stay safe with law enforcement until we acheive our “We Deserve Better” campaign goals to 1) get a LGBTQ-specific policy adopted and implemented in the New Orleans Police Department 2) get model LGBTQ training for all officers in the NOPD informed by national best practices and in consultation with youth members and 3) secure a seat on any Advisory Boards that develop to the NOPD.
The “BreakOUT! Guide to Street Safety and Preserving Your Rights with the Police” can be downloaded below. Or, stop by our office for a printed version.