Why to not call the police on trans people in crisis: Things to consider when supporting a friend

6/9/2020

Trans Lifeline does not engage in non-consensual active rescue. Since our founding, we have been divested from the police. That means that if you call us and are in crisis, we will not call 911 or the police — unless you explicitly ask us to. Here’s why:

Police are not trained in crisis support.

  • If you call 911, police will almost definitely come. Most 911 dispatches will not send just an ambulance or paramedics.
  • The majority of US police departments do not mandate training around mental health & crisis support.

Police are trained to use force

  • Police in the US often use force, including deadly force, against people in crisis.
  • Police present an extreme threat of violence towards Black & Indigenous people, people of color, neurodivergent & disabled people.
  • People with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement.

Police encounters can criminalize trans people

  • Police may arrest trans people in crisis, and create a criminal record for someone who just needs support.
  • Police are more likely to arrest Black & Indigenous people and people of color.
  • If a trans person is undocumented or assumed to be, it can lead to their detention and/or deportation.
  • Arrests can lead to denial of a jail or prison facility consistent with a trans persons’ gender, trauma while imprisoned, and denial of trans medical care.
  • Calling police to intervene in mental health can result in police entering your friend’s home with or without their consent. The best case is an invasion of privacy. Several activities are criminalized including using drugs, sex work, or accessing hormones without a prescription.

If a trans person survives a police encounter, there are other risks

  • When hospitalized, trans people are often denied access to correctly gendered facilities, gender-affirming clothing, transition-related medication and adequate treatment based on gender.
  • Involuntary psychiatric hold history can be used as an excuse to deny a trans person gender-affirming medical treatment, like surgery, in the future.
  • Having to pay an ambulance and hospital bill can mean not affording housing or food, especially if someone is uninsured.
  • One of the places a trans person is most likely to experience sexual assault is a hospital.
  • Emergency responders often out trans youth to their families, resulting in abuse or loss of shelter.

Your friends need to be able to trust you.

  • If your friend is in crisis and told you, they trust you to support them. Calling emergency services without their consent could break that trust.
  • Going through trauma with police, first responders and hospitals statistically makes people more suicidal.
  • Your friend might not tell you next time they need support.