The city of New Orleans is denying allegations that the city’s police department discriminated against a recruit because he is transgender.
City communications director Beau Tidwell said that the police department’s recruiting process is highly selective and regularly turns away about 98% of those who apply to be law enforcement officers. He added that the former recruit, Britton Hamilton, had his offer to join the department rescinded for reasons that had nothing to do with his gender, though he declined to state those reasons.
Hamilton, who has said he had always aspired to join the police department, has filed a federal lawsuit against it, claiming that he was discriminated against on the basis of his gender identity, reports the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.
Hamilton, a former member of the U.S. Army, said he had believed he would fit into the police department in LGBTQ-friendly New Orleans. As a Black man, he expressed a desire to serve his local community and show people of color that they do not have to be distrustful of police.
He applied for a job in June 2020, and took a civil service exam and physical agility test in a month later, passing both. In September, he passed a voice test — which is used to measure stress levels to probing questions posed to, and thus, the truthfulness of, potential recruits.
Hamilton was given a conditional job offer on Dec. 14, 2020, pending a comprehensive psychological and medical screening. But he said a New Orleans Police Department screener spent a significant amount of time questioning him about his sexuality after learning that Hamilton had legally changed his name and had undergone hormone replacement therapy and surgical interventions, including a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy.
A month after the screening, city officials told Hamilton they could not hire him and were rescinding the job offer, based on a “psychological assessment” of “emotional and behavioral characteristics.”
Hamilton was disappointed, shocked, and dejected by the withdrawal of the job offer, telling New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU that he was “caught off guard” by the police department’s actions, noting that he’s been transitioning over the past six years.
“My name is changed, my gender is changed, I’m married since 2018, legally everyone looks at — look at me, I’m a man,” Hamilton said.
He later told the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate in an interview that he was confused by the department’s inference that he is somehow emotionally unstable, especially because his doctor has described him as “responsible, emotionally stable, and kind.”
“To be denied because of my gender was very heartbreaking,” he said. “My being trans doesn’t affect my capabilities to serve my community.”
Hamilton later filed a complaint with the Louisiana Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging he was illegally discriminated against. But Mayor Cantrell’s administration and the NOPD claim that the decision not to move forward with the applicant in question “did not involve any discrimination against them as a member of the protected group.”
The EEOC’s initial ruling was favorable for Hamilton, according to his lawyer, Chelsea Cusimano. If the EEOC determines that there’s probable cause that Hamilton was discriminated against, he could potentially pursue legal action against the NOPD and the city.
“I’m out to make sure that all employers know that transgender people will be treated the same — they will be hired the same and treated the same and will not be targeted based on that decision,” Cusimano said.
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