The California Senate Judiciary Committee broke new ground this week when they announced that they would be banning the use of the gender-based pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she.’ Committee Chair Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties) announced, “We are now a state recognizing the non-binary designation as a gender…we are using the designation ‘they’ in place of other designations, so that it is a gender-neutral designation.”

It is not too far of a stretch to believe that this could migrate to the banning of the ‘male’ and ‘female’ or ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ Soon, they may only allow ‘they’, ‘them’, ‘people’ and ‘person’.

Imagine for just a moment that this type of language restrictions leaves the inside of the committee room and trickles down to other levels of government. What if the Chief of Police or Sheriff were to enact this type of ban on the men and women serving their communities in law enforcement roles? Could they effectively do their job?

What would a report look like? If you could not use gender specific identifiers, could the report you are writing effectively be used in court? Could you obtain a search warrant or an arrest warrant? One police detective in Texas said that the “judges I work with would not sign off on a warrant if the probable cause affidavit only alluded to vague terminology like ‘suspect’, ‘person’ or ‘they/them’”.

What would this do to your every day contact with the public? Officers try to be respectful of everyone they encounter. What happens if you cannot politely refer to someone as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am?’  And if you are responding to a call, how do you possibly investigate in such a generic manner?

Let’s take that a step further. What happens if you broadcast a BOLO over the radio? Again, no gender identifications are allowed. How do you communicate effectively to others on patrol? A white male in a red jacket would simply become white suspect in a red jacket but could be a man or a woman. And if you trade the word white with black, Hispanic or Asian? Does this open the door to charges of racial profiling?

And what about communicating with the public?  When you have a suspect at large and remove the ability to identify the suspect accurately, how do people know who to contact you about?

And finally, let’s assume that you can actually get a warrant and make an arrest, fast forward several months to the court date. If your reports, body camera video, dashboard camera video and testimony all use generic gender identifiers, how can the DA possibly get a jury to return with a guilty verdict? Every defense lawyer will use this as a tactic to create reasonable doubt based on the arresting officers not being able to identify the gender of their client.

Let’s face it. The work that the men and women in law enforcement do is hard enough and is often thankless. Potentially requiring them to use language and verbiage that is gender neutral would only increase the degree of difficulty.  Legislators should be doing everything they can to make it easier for officers to do their job. It is laws like these that wind up putting the handcuffs on the wrong group of people.