The New York Police Department has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a transgender advocate who claims she was belittled and ridiculed while in police custody following a 2018 arrest.
The NYPD will pay $30,000 to Linda Dominguez, a transgender cosmetologist and human rights activist from the Bronx, who says she was walking home through Claremont Park in the Bronx around 11:45 p.m. on April 18, 2018, when police detained and eventually arrested her for being in the park after hours.
The officers initially confronted Dominguez in English, but Dominguez has limited English proficiency. When they asked her name, she gave them her previous legal name, because she thought that was the name she was supposed to give, as well as her address and birth date. She also presented two conflicting forms of ID — including one with her deadname — in an effort to prove her identity.
Police arrested Dominguez and charged her with criminal trespass and “false personation,” a charge referring to when a person misrepresents their actual name in order to prevent police from discovering their true identity. But it was while in custody that she claims police subjected her to harassment and ridicule, or what she referred to as a personal “hell,” according to the New York Daily News.
Dominguez claims police mercilessly mocked her, called her by her “deadname” and referred to her using male pronouns, and forced her to wear a pair of pink handcuffs to highlight her gender identity, even though there were plenty of non-pink handcuffs available. Dominguez was also the only prisoner left in handcuffs while detained inside a holding cell.
The charges against her were ultimately dropped, but she enlisted the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union to sue the department for mistreating her the following year.
In that lawsuit, Dominguez’s lawyers claimed the arresting officers’ behavior toward Dominguez violated the NYPD’ own protocol for dealing with transgender individuals. They noted that the department’s patrol guide forbids officers from using “false personation” charges against transgender individuals who wish to be referred to by the name that matches their gender identity.
“I never want anyone to go through the abuse I experienced from people sworn to protect me,” Dominguez said in a statement. “This settlement is an important step toward ending a culture of impunity and discrimination against trans people in the NYPD. As an advocate for my community, I couldn’t let this go.”
Under the terms of the settlement, NYPD must commit to redistributing its guidance on interactions with transgender and gender-nonconforming people to the entire department, and to retrain officers in the 44th precinct — where Dominguez was arrested — on how to follow those guidelines.
“Harassment of transgender women of color is far too frequent in the NYPD,” Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “As the national reckoning with police abuse and violence continues, this settlement makes clear that the NYPD has an obligation to treat transgender women with dignity. We will continue to hold the NYPD accountable.”
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