The “land of the free’s” police force has come under fire for the abuse of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people according to an Amnesty International report released on Thursday.

The shocking report, entitled “Stonewalled – Still demanding respect”, highlights widespread homophobic behaviour by American law enforcement officials – including torture. It is based on extensive interviews with LGBT people, victims of police abuse, lawyers, activists and the police themselves from 2002 to 2005 by Amnesty.

In a statement issued by the organisation, it said that, “The interviews reveal a very clear and worrying pattern. Cases of beatings, sexual violence, verbal abuse, harassment and humiliation by law enforcement officials against LGBT people take place on any given day in detention centres, prisons, in the home, and on the street.”

According to the report, those most vulnerable to abuse by the police within the LGBT community include transgender people, those from ethnic or racial minorities, as well as immigrants and the youth.

Amnesty has documented in detail stories such as a lesbian from Georgia who says that she was raped by a police officer at gunpoint in 2004, while a transgendered woman recounts how she was accosted, beaten and raped by police in Los Angeles in 2003. In addition to abuse by their own members, authorities often dismiss or ignore other crimes committed against LGBT people.

“There are still some discriminatory laws; but the bigger problem is the discriminatory way in which many laws are applied, which often results in the arrest and detention of individuals just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” says Amnesty.

The report calls on federal and state law enforcement agencies to ensure that discriminatory behaviour against LGBT people come to an end, and that those implicated be brought to book.

“Effective reform requires the backing of the highest ranks. There needs to be a fundamental understanding of the right to freely express one’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” says the report.

To read the full report, visit the Amnesty International website.

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