bree black transgender murder
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Today, most transgender murder cases continue to remain unsolved in the United States because police are struggling to connect with LGBTQ+ communities and properly represent victims in the media.

Nearly eight months ago, on July 3 2020, Bree Black was murdered on a crowded street in South Florida’s Pompano Beach. However, despite the likelihood that dozens of individuals saw the crime happen, no one has come forward to aid in the investigation.

In August, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony reported that information about Black’s death was still exceptionally limited. “Weeks in on this investigation, we have not received any type of information from the community, no calls, no tips, no support in this particular investigation.” Now, in March 2021, Black’s case has seen little progress.

Several experts and advocates for the transgender and LGBTQ+ communities have stated that United States police routinely fail to protect transgender victims via illformed state hate crime laws and improper identification practices such as misgendering and misnaming individuals.

In fact, law enforcement identified Black, 27, by her “legal name”— also known as her “dead name” or the name that she was assigned at birth. No one in her community knew Black by that name and instead only knew her as Bree or her nickname “Nuk.” As a result, the police further jeopardized the possibility of witnesses coming forward with information as well as the trans community’s trust in the agency itself.

Last year, 27 transgender people were murdered in the United States. This year, while only being two months into 2021, the count is already up to 25. In terms of the national clearance rate for murders, the number of transgender cases that are solved is nationally well below the rate for cisgender cases (i.e., cases concerning individuals whose gender is the same as the one they were assigned at birth). Moreover, according to the FBI’s 2020 uniform crime report, the murder clearance rate is about 62% for cisgender individuals but drops to about 44% when the victims are transgender.

In Florida, that percentage drops down to 40. Furthermore, Florida has led the country in the numbers of murders that have reportedly targeted transgender people for the last two years. While there have been about 90 murders in the entire United States, 10 of them occurred in Florida. Out of these 10 cases, only four were actually solved or otherwise cleared in some capacity. According to Brendan Lantz, an assistant professor in the college of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University, nine of the 10 total cases also involved some degree of misgendering the victims.

“I think it’s really important to look at the relationship between misgendering, deadnaming and clearance rates,” Lantz said. “The cases are less likely to be solved if we’re deadnaming the victims and not using the right details. If you’re putting the wrong name out into the world, you’re not going to get all the information you could when you’re trying to solve the case.”

Recently, LGBTQ+ employees at the Broward Sheriff’s Office started a coalition within the county to ensure that every local law enforcement agency has at least one LGBTQ+ liason. The new group also raised the reward for information pertaining to Black’s case to $8,000.

“If you’re communicating with the community, if you know the community, you know who to reach out to whether you need training, whether you need help in identifying someone who maybe is either nonbinary or fluid in their gender identity and presentation,” remarked Gina Duncan, the director of transgender inclusion for Equality Florida, a political advocacy group that focuses on protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ+ populations.

Overall, Duncan has emphasized the importance of having LGBTQ+ liasons in place at every level of law enforcement in order to protect individuals during their interactions with the police. In doing so, Duncan aims to teach officers how to properly and respectfully engage with transgender people as well as file reports with their accurate gender.

In regards to Bree Black’s case, anyone who might have information about her murder is encouraged to call Broward Crime Stoppers at (954) 493-8477.

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