Judge halts new California law requiring police officers to disclose their gender identity

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Bob Egelko | Contributed

A judge halted enforcement Tuesday of a new statewide rule requiring law enforcement officers to disclose their own gender identity in reporting traffic stops to a California anti-discrimination board.

As part of the state’s Racial and Identity Profiling Act, passed in 2015, California police officers are required to record information about people they stop and submit the data to the state, which compiles and analyzes the information in annual reports. Since Jan. 1, new regulations by Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office have required officers to also notify their employer whether they are cisgender, transgender or nonbinary, information the police agency relays to the state.

The temporary restraining order by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Christopher Krueger came in a lawsuit by the Peace Officers’ Research Association of California, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and organizations of police chiefs and sheriffs. Krueger did not spell out his reasons in the brief order, but scheduled a hearing for March 19 on a preliminary injunction that would keep the new requirements on hold while the case continued.

“PORAC remains committed to protecting the rights of all our members to live as they wish, identify as they see fit, and to share that identity on their own terms,” the organization’s president, Brian Marvel, said in a statement. PORAC says it has more than 78,000 members from 955 law enforcement organizations in the state. The group also opposed the initial law that created the data reporting requirements, and regularly criticizes annual reports showing officers disproportionately stop and search drivers of color.

David Mastagni, a lawyer for the police groups in the suit, said Bonta was contradicting the privacy standard the attorney general had declared for schools that require teachers to inform parents when a student identifies as transgender.

In a “Legal Alert” to school officials in California on Jan. 11, Bonta said that “forced gender identity disclosure policies — which target transgender and gender nonconforming students by mandating that school personnel disclose a student’s gender identity or gender nonconformity to a parent or guardian without the student’s express consent — violate state law.” He has taken that position in lawsuits against school districts in state and federal courts.

“Paradoxically, his DOJ (Department of Justice) refused to afford peace officers these same privacy rights,” Mastagni said. He said the rules also violate California’s civil rights law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender as well as race, ethnicity, age, religion and disability.

Bonta’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under the attorney general’s rules, PORAC said, an officer’s gender identity would be disclosed on a form that could be accessed by supervisors and coworkers. Those who refused to disclose the information could be fired, and those who misstated their gender identity could lose their licenses, the organization said.

If enforced, PORAC said, the regulations would have the effect of “dissuading officers who are nonbinary or transgender from joining or remaining in the profession.”

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