Trans Woman Sues D.C. Police for Harassment
A trans woman is suing the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service, alleging she was placed with male prisoners after being arrested in 2009 and was harassed by police and fellow detainees.
Patti Hammond Shaw, of Southeast Washington, alleges that after turning herself in to officers at the Sixth District station in June of 2009 following notice there was a warrant out for her arrest over filing a false police report, she was unlawfully harassed and improperly housed.
The lawsuit states that the male marshal who searched Shaw “groped her breasts, buttocks and between her legs repeatedly and excessively.” She further alleges that other marshals made crude comments about her breasts and gender.
The lawsuit claims that marshals placed Shaw in a holding cell with approximately 30 men who were going to traffic court. “Several of the men in the holding cell touched Ms. Shaw inappropriately, verbally harassed and propositioned her, threatened to punch her if she did not show her breasts to them, and shook their penises at her,” it reads.
Shaw also claims that she was forced to urinate in a cup in “full view of the men in the holding cell.” She further states that a male detainee to whom she was chained touched her “inappropriately several times” as they went into D.C. Superior Court. Shaw said that the marshals told the man to stop harassing her and instructed her to ignore him. She alleges that the male detainee continued to harass her and the marshals “did not take any further action.”
A 2007 policy change mandates that D.C. police must hold trans detainees in individual cells, that they must honor the detainee’s gender identity, and also that they should pass on this information to the U.S. Marshals Service and all other relevant agencies involved in the transport and care of the prisoner.
The false report filed by Shaw dates back to a May 14, 2009, incident when she dialed 911 to report that she believed her friends had stolen her purse from her place of residence. She subsequently found her purse before police arrived. She then made a second 911 call claiming that two young men robbed her while she was in her front yard with her dogs. This claim was not factual either. She later pleaded guilty to filing false police reports but was spared jail time.
While Shaw has been allowed to pursue a state claim against the police force, a federal claim she had made was thrown out in November of last year, with a judge warning that he believed her state-level case was unlikely to succeed.
On Nov. 24, 2009, Shaw sued the metro officers and deputy marshals for assault, battery, emotional distress, and negligence. She later added a claim for cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
On Friday, Judge Huvelle dismissed all of those claims on procedural grounds, and remanded the remaining state-law claims to Superior Court.
The judge predicted that those claims will also fail, quoting the case Agudas Chasidei Chabad of U.S. v. Russian Federation. “Certainly, if the federal claims are dismissed before trial, … the state claims should be dismissed as well,” the ruling states.
The Justice Department recently announced new standards designed to combat the epidemic of sexual assaults in American prisons, something which disproportionately impacts LGBT and intersex inmates. Read more on that here.