The case of a transgendered man who is suing the San Francisco police department for $25 million went to trial Monday. Jeremy Burke, 37, says that officers severely beat him when he tried to visit his domestic partner's apartment in August 2001.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the incident began when Burke showed up to deliver medicine to his ill 67-year-old female partner, who lives in a Housing Authority development. Burke showed his identification to a guard but was refused entry into the building. The guard told police that Burke pushed past her, while Burke maintains he was shoved into an elevator. Officers were called, and a tussle ensued. Burke was arrested on suspicion of battery on an officer, resisting arrest, and trespassing, the newspaper reported. The charges were later dropped.
Burke maintains that he was severely beaten by the officers who showed up. In addition, Burke says, his feet and hands were cuffed and he was made to lie facedown on the floor. When Burke told the officers he was transgendered, one of the officers reportedly said, "Oh, shit. We fucked up."
"While the transgender community makes up less than 5% of the general population, this lawsuit is meant to send a clear message to governmental police agencies that discrimination in any form, against any citizen, will not be tolerated," said San Francisco civil rights attorney Waukeen Q. McCoy, who represents Burke in the case, in a statement. "This case will send a wake-up call to law enforcement across the country that the use of excessive force will be challenged."
The Chronicle reported that Burke and his lawyer filed a complaint with San Francisco's Office of Citizen Complaints, but the claim could not be substantiated.
SFPD spokesman Jim Deignan told the newspaper that officers are trained in handling transgendered people. For example, a transgendered male would be strip-searched by a male officer, Deignan said. At one point during his incarceration and strip search, Burke told the newspaper, an officer threw a dress in the cell he was kept in, even though he had told them he lived as a man. "I believe [the training] is as adequate as is possible at this time," Deignan said. "We're always open to learning more."
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