Three New York City police officers openly mocked and misgendered a transgender women, placed her in nonstandard pink handcuffs overnight, and then charged her with "false personation," a new lawsuit states.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU have filed suit against the NYPD on behalf of Linda Dominguez, a trans Latina who works as a cosmetologist in New York City.
Dominguez, who was walking home through a Bronx park on April 18, 2018, was stopped by New York City police officers for being in the park after hours. When asked for her name, Dominguez, who speaks limited English, says she gave both her current and former legal name to the officers.
She was then arrested with pink handcuffs and taken to the local precinct station.
Dominguez was placed in a cell by herself overnight with the nonstandard cuffs remaining on and repeatedly mocked by officers who referred to Dominguez with male pronouns, according to the complaint.
Dominguez was then charged with criminal trespass and false personation, a crime that requires the person to have knowingly misrepresented themself with intent to prevent police from knowing their identity.
The charges were thrown out by a judge in August.
"The NYPD must take responsibility for the culture of discrimination that pervades the department," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "Being transgender is not a crime."
The trans woman of color says her suit highlights the ongoing abuses transgender people race at the hands of the NYPD.
"As an advocate for my community, I could not let this go and allow police abuse against us trans women to continue," says Dominguez, who is also a community activist for other trans women of color. "The police must be held accountable, and must learn to treat us with the same respect as every other human being."
In a statement to The Advocate, the NYPD says they remain committed to meeting the needs of the community and point to LGBTQ guidelines the department introduced in 2012.
"[T]he NYPD has carefully and thoughtfully designed and implemented effective policies, training protocols, outreach initiatives, and disciplinary processes," says police spokesperson Jessica McRorie. "The NYPD will continue to communicate and collaborate with the LGBTQ community as we seek to further strengthen our relationship with all of the communities throughout the City that we protect and serve."
However, civil rights groups argue that these rules have not been implemented or are just being ignored.
"The police's own guidelines prohibit discrimination against trans New Yorkers, but clearly the NYPD is failing to make sure officers follow their own rules and honor the dignity of all New Yorkers," Lieberman says.
A 2015 survey found that 61 percent of transgender respondents in New York State faced some form of harassment or mistreatment by police and 58 percent stated they didn't feel comfortable asking officers for help. A report released in 2017 found that most officers across New York City had still not been trained in the wake of new guidelines.
"The fact that Linda was actually charged with 'false personation' is absurd and outrageous, but it highlights how the NYPD continues to criminalize transgender people for existing," says Bobby Hodgson, NYCLU staff attorney.
"The NYPD must do more to ensure that officers are trained to treat transgender New Yorkers with respect."