When Police Killed a Trans Woman, Small Town Officials Scrambled to Protect Them

On Might 19, 2022, police within the small borough of Malvern, Pennsylvania, performed a wellness test on 47-year-old Korean transgender girl Maddie Hofmann, who was experiencing a psychological well being disaster. In response to the Chester County district attorney, Hofmann allegedly opened the entrance door with a gun of their proper hand. An officer satisfied them to drop the firearm, however Hofmann allegedly picked it again up. A wrestle ensued, and Hofmann allegedly waved the gun on the police. An officer fatally shot them 3 times. The incident lasted solely 57 seconds.

After a two-week investigation, the DA’s workplace concluded that the officer’s use of lethal pressure was justified. Hofmann’s partner, Rebecca Hofmann, began a Change.org petition demanding nonetheless unreleased body-worn digicam and sprint digicam footage be turned over to the household’s lawyer. Greater than 29,000 have signed the petition to this point, with commenters declaring, “Trans Lives Matter,” and, “There’s completely no motive somebody must be killed throughout a wellness test.”

Rebecca instructed Truthout in a Fb message that she’s hoping to assemble sufficient funds to carry Maddie’s ashes again to their birthplace in Seoul, South Korea. “They had been adopted at 3, they usually by no means had been capable of make it again to their homeland,” she stated.

A screen shot of a Change.org petition, reading "DEMAND Malvern police Department release the body camera footage. It had been signed 28,936 times.
Change.org petition, revealed by Rebecca Hofmann

Hofmann’s demise calls consideration to ongoing problems with police-perpetrated killings of these experiencing mental health crises, together with transgender people. It additionally speaks to the dearth of police transparency, police funding and the policing of psychological well being extra broadly. Certainly, as a result of a staggering variety of police-perpetrated killings, most prominently of Black people across the United States, advocates have referred to as to reform and defund the police and make investments these sources into well being care, housing, and different neighborhood helps.

But, not like main U.S. cities like New York Metropolis, Minneapolis, or Philadelphia the place a lot media consideration has been positioned, Hofmann’s killing occurred in a suburb which hosts a inhabitants of simply 3,419 residents and sits on 1.2 sq. miles of land, 25 miles outdoors of Philadelphia.

Within the wake of Hofmann’s killing, Malvern officers have protected native police by way of continued finances allocation, regardless of low crime charges and mounting police controversies. In 2023, the Malvern Borough council elevated the police budget to $1.5 million from $1.4 million in 2022, up from $1.34 million in 2021.

A police finances of $1.5 million could appear minuscule in comparison with Philadelphia’s $800 million police budget, however it represents about 28 p.c of Malvern’s $5.5 million working finances, in comparison with Philadelphia’s 14 p.c. That’s regardless of Malvern police reporting in 2022 solely 4 violent crimes (easy assaults) and eight severe property crimes (4 larceny thefts, three motorcar thefts, and one housebreaking), and solely resolving the single housebreaking case.

Hofmann’s demise calls consideration to ongoing problems with police-perpetrated killings of these experiencing psychological well being crises. It additionally speaks to the dearth of police transparency and the policing of psychological well being extra broadly.

Along with funding police automobiles, weapons and salaries, native politicians supply public relations help. A month earlier than Malvern councilors increased the police finances by $100,000, the borough council and then-Mayor Dave Burton provided a “proclamation in honor” of the police chief and police division. Throughout the council assembly, the police chief and the mayor every acquired plaques, and the council praised the 2 for having “made knowledgeable, revered, trusted police division.” As recorded within the meeting minutes, the police acquired “a standing ovation from the gang of a very full assembly room in honor for his or her service.”

Present Democratic Mayor Zeyn Uzman has additionally accomplished a lot to guard the general public picture of the Malvern police. In response to eyewitness accounts, Mayor Uzman tried to cease the circulation of the Malvernian, a free, watchdog newspaper, edited and distributed by resident Danny Fruchter, which continuously attracts consideration to native police. Uzman reportedly went into an area comfort retailer and berated the shop supervisor and two cashiers for supplying the print-only paper, threatening them with a police boycott.

Uzman admitted in correspondence with Fruchter that he instructed the supervisor, “I might respect it when [the Malvernian] is available in, it must be disposed of as a result of it’s an assault towards me and our Police Division,” in keeping with Fruchter’s recounting within the Malvernian. On the November 15, 2022, borough council assembly, Councilor Joe Bones demanded Fruchter produce a witness. Fruchter provided to point out three eyewitness video accounts, however the council didn’t comply with up on his supply.

Certainly, the construction of the biweekly open council meetings leaves little room for public engagement. Residents are afforded three minutes to talk on the finish of the 2 hour-long conferences, and councilors haven’t any obligation to reply. “Public remark means remark, not questions,” Solicitor Wendy MacLean asserted in a single assembly, as documented within the Malvernian. When a remark is posted within the minutes, the interplay could also be left obscure. When Fruchter addressed the council concerning the mayor’s conduct within the retailer, the minutes merely reported that, “Mr. Danny Fruchter commented on the Mayor and Malvern Borough Police Division’s efficiency from a ready assertion learn by him,” due to this fact offering no official document of the incident.

With a police pressure protected by native officers, it’s maybe little shock what occurred to Hofmann’s partner, Rebecca, when she confronted Malvern officers at a council assembly on December 20, 2022 — seven months after Maddie’s demise. The council rejected her lawyer entry to sprint and physique digicam footage, and the chief and mayor denied having management over its launch. Rebecca responded in an open letter within the January/February 2023 version of The Malvernian:

How far are you every prepared to go to guard individuals who received’t even try and justify their actions? Have ANY of you even requested yourselves why your Police Chief and Mayor received’t share the footage? Or would asking your self this pressure you to face the truth of the place you might have positioned yourselves: Bathing in idolatry of your Police Division whereas refusing to carry them accountable.

Google road view of the Malvern police station.

Maddie’s household continues to be looking for justice. “Over a 12 months has handed & I nonetheless don’t know find out how to reply our youngsters’ questions. Greater than a 12 months & we’re nonetheless no nearer to solutions,” Rebecca wrote on Facebook on August 3, 2023

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