Court document in Kruger case under scrutiny

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A court document filed by Philadelphia police in the Josh Kruger murder case contains wording that could be considered offensive to the trans community.

Robert Edmond Davis murdered Kruger around 1:25 a.m. on Oct. 2, 2023, inside Kruger’s Point Breeze residence. Davis evaded authorities for 23 days before being arrested on Oct. 25, 2023. He was sentenced this week to a minimum of 15 years in state prison.

Kruger, 39, allegedly sexually-abused Davis for multiple years while Davis was a minor. Davis, 20, pleaded guilty to murder and related charges on June 10 and will serve a minimum of 15 years in state prison.

On Oct. 6, Philadelphia police issued a probable-cause affidavit, explaining the criminal charges against Davis and the need for his arrest. In this publicly-accessible document, police refer to a witness in the case with “he/she” and “him/her” pronouns.

Historically, “he/she” and “him/her” pronouns have been used by police in a pejorative manner against the trans community. For example, Nizah Morris was represented on a police report as having two genders, though she identified as female.

A police spokesperson was asked why a witness in the Kruger murder case was referred to with two genders. 

“It is common practice for the PPD to use ‘he/she’ or ‘her/him’ to keep the Commonwealth witness anonymous prior to any and all judicial proceedings,” the spokesperson replied in an email.

As of presstime, the police spokesperson didn’t reply to a follow-up question asking whether police would consider using a gender-neutral pronoun such as “they” when referring to individuals who require anonymity. 

Elsewhere in the affidavit, a neighbor of Kruger who required anonymity is referred to as “they.” It remains unclear why police don’t use “they” on a consistent basis, when a person requires anonymity.

Jeffrey H. Palmer, a prosecutor in the Kruger case, expressed optimism that gender-neutral terminology will be used in such documents in the future. 

“I understand the concern,” Palmer told PGN. “I think it’s a good idea.”

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office approves probable-cause affidavits but the police department is responsible for the wording of the document.

In 2019, Philadelphia police implemented Directive 4.15, which requires all police personnel to refer to individuals with their proper pronouns. The policy was adopted after prolonged advocacy by the LGBTQ+ community.

Additionally, Philadelphia police officers must use a person’s chosen name and pronouns throughout an interaction. This is true whether the person is a suspect, arrestee, witness, victim or has died as a result of a crime.

Directive 4.15 also requires an officer to record a person’s chosen name on paperwork, in addition to their legal name (if it’s different). Additionally, officers must use a person’s chosen name and pronouns when speaking to the media. 

If an officer is going to make an arrest, they must take trans and nonbinary people to the nearest medical center before taking them into custody — to  address the person’s immediate medical needs, including hormone therapy. Moreover, trans and nonbinary people are to be held in a single cell when possible, according to the policy.

If no ID is available, an officer is required to record a person’s name and gender based on how they identify themselves.

If a trans or nonbinary person needs to be searched, they may ask for an officer of the same gender and their request should be honored — unless it would jeopardize the safety of others. Prior to being searched, trans and nonbinary individuals may ask to remove any prosthetics, clothing, or wigs, according to the directive.

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