LGBQ people six times more likely than general public to be stopped by police

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds more LGBQ adults than people in the general United States population have had interactions with the police, including being stopped by police and seeking help from police.

Six times as many LGBQ people as people in the general population were stopped by the police in public spaces, and more than twice as many were stopped by the police while driving. Nearly seven times as many LGBQ people were stopped by the police for reasons that did not involve a vehicle. In addition, twice as many LGBQ people as the general public had sought help from the police.

Using data from the Generations Study, a nationally representative sample of LGBQ people in the U.S., and the Police-Public Contact Survey, researchers examined the frequency and types of police interactions experienced by LGBQ people compared with the same reports from people in the general U.S. population.

“The much higher rates of LGBQ adults being approached by the police is consistent with previous research that shows LGBQ people are over-policed and experience bias-based profiling by law enforcement,” said lead author Winston Luhur, Research Assistant at the Williams Institute.

Although data about transgender people were not available in the datasets analyzed for this brief, research indicates that transgender people, particularly women of color, are at heightened risk of negative police interactions, including harassment and assault.

Additional Findings

  • Compared with the general population, almost six times as many LGBQ people were stopped by the police in a public space (6% vs. 1%).
  • Nearly seven times as many LGBQ people than the general public were stopped for reasons that did not involve a vehicle (7% vs. 1%).
  • LGBQ people were more than twice as likely as the general population to be stopped while driving (19% vs. 8%).
  • Twice as many LGBQ people approached or sought help from the police (22% vs. 11%) as those in the general population.
  • Among LGBQ people, 13% said they did not call the police even when they needed help.
  • Compared with the general population, fewer LGBQ adults said the police behaved properly during their contact (81% vs. 91%).
  • More LGBQ people were unlikely to contact the police again as compared with the general population (22% vs. 6%).
  • Fewer female LGBQ adults reported satisfaction with the police compared to women in the general population (69% vs. 85%).

“It is notable that despite the greater need of LGBQ people for police protection, due to being victimized in violent crimes more often than non-LGBQ people, fewer LGBQ than non-LGBQ people were satisfied with the interaction they had with police,” said study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “In view of the history of criminalization and victimization of LGBQ people, as police reform is being discussed nationally, it is important that reforms include attention to policing of LGBTQ populations across race and gender.”

The Generations Study examines the health and well-being of cisgender and nonbinary LGBQ people. Transgender people, regardless of their sexual orientation, were included in a separate study (www.TransPop.org) and are not reported in this study.

Read the report

May 19, 2021

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