A transgender woman is suing the NYPD for discrimination after police officers, she said, mocked and harassed her when she was arrested for charges including “false personation” after she provided them with both her current legal name and her previous one.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union jointly filed suit on behalf of Linda Dominguez, who said three police officers approached her one night in April of last year and initially slapped her with a criminal trespass charge for walking through Claremont Park in the Bronx after closing hours. The false personation charge was added when she told officers about both of the names she has used in the past, despite the fact that charge legally involves people intentionally misrepresenting their name.
Things devolved from there, as she was subsequently thrown into a jail cell with pink handcuffs while officers addressed her with male pronouns, Dominguez alleges. She was released the following day.
Officers Megan Francis, of the 44th precinct, and two other unidentified male cops from the same precinct, were all listed as defendants in the lawsuit along with the NYPD and City of New York.
Dominguez, a member of the immigrant rights group Make the Road New York, said in a written statement that she “could not let this go and allow police abuse against us trans women to continue.”
She added, “The police must be held accountable, and must learn to treat us with the same respect as every other human being.”
The actions described by Dominguez are in direct violation of NYPD policies stemming from 2012 stipulating that transgender people who provide their chosen name rather than a legal name — which was not even the case here — cannot be charged with false personification.
Police Sergeant Jessica McRorie told Gay City News that the department would not comment on the specifics surrounding the case, but that the NYPD “is committed to serving and meeting the needs of the LGBTQ community with sensitivity, equity, and effectiveness.”
The lawsuit further states that the city’s Department of Investigation reported in 2017 that there were “clear gaps in the NYPD’s implementation” of the 2012 patrol guide revisions and that only six of the department’s 77 precincts received training.
ACLU senior staff attorney Gabriel Arkles blasted the NYPD in a written statement, noting it would be difficult to imagine police officers arresting a white person for simply walking through a park.
“It is outrageous that a police officer not only did that, but then claimed a woman committed false personation simply because she is transgender and provided both her previous and current name,” Arkles said. “Unfortunately, though, it not surprising. Police misconduct toward LGBTQ people, especially trans women of color, has a long history in this city and this country, both before and after Stonewall.”
The lawsuit states that Dominguez “seeks damages and declaratory relief for the defendants’ violations of” the city and state’s human rights law, as well as the State Constitution and Community Safety Act.
When Gay City News reached out to the city’s Commission on Human Rights, a spokesperson said she asked the agency’s legal experts to look into the case. The experts were unable to respond by press time, but the commission noted in a statement that the city’s human rights law “adopted progressive protections for transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) New Yorkers in 2002 and [the agency] works hard every day to protect TGNC communities. The Commission takes all acts of discrimination very seriously.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told Gay City News that, in light of widespread mistreatment of transgender people, the NYPD should be taking “special care” to ensure the safety and wellbeing of transgender New Yorkers.
“The City Council and I will be discussing this incident with the NYPD and continuing to conduct oversight on their policies as the facts come to light,” Johnson said.