A transexual woman is suing two police officers of Cicero, Illinois, because she claims they harassed her, threatened her with violence, and repeatedly ridiculed her gender identity.
The federal suit, filed in February, sees Bianca Feliciano, 18, claim that two officers stopped her and her friend as they walked to a restaurant. The suit claims that the officers then began harassing her and accusing her of being a prostitute based on nothing more than the fact that she is a transexual woman. They then arrested her for underage possession of tobacco and continued to verbally abuse her at the police station.
The suit claims that officers repeatedly misgendered Feliciano while in police custody, and that one officer even threatened to punch Ms. Feliciano. The alleged mistreatment didn’t stop there, either.
Feliciano handed over her state-issued ID, but officers refused to accept it, claiming Feliciano had lied about her gender, according to the suit.
At the Cicero police station, where Feliciano spent several hours, police continued to insult and humiliate her, the lawsuit alleges.
Feliciano was 17 at the time and was charged as a juvenile. In addition to the tobacco charges, she was also was cited for allegedly having a stone inside a sock, which police classified as a weapon. The charges were dropped in exchange for Feliciano agreeing to 15 hours of community service, her lawyer said.
The lawsuit also claims that police then attempted to cover up their treatment of Feliciano.
“Subsequent to this formal complaint, Defendant Officers Harris and Calderon wrote an entirely new police report that included false and fabricated allegations of their encounter and interactions with Ms. Feliciano in order to cover up their illegal, discriminatory and unconstitutional treatment of Ms. Feliciano and avoid any discipline or liability for violating her rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution and Illinois law,” the lawsuit states.
Ray Hanania, a spokesperson for the Town of Cicero, said that he cannot comment on the pending litigation. He did, however, say that he believes that both officers named in the suit are still employed with the Cicero Police Department and have not been subject to disciplinary action.
“They did investigate and are investigating the charges,” Hanania added.
Hanania said that Cicero has strong policies against discrimination.
Treatment of trans citizens while in police custody has already been highlighted as a problem in the state that needs careful attention.
Indeed, Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno has said that he plans to introduce an ordinance that will create a commission to handle and ensure the protection of transgender people while in police custody.
Formally titled The Police Treatment of Transgender Individuals Ordinance, the measure would specifically add gender identity definitions to police policy, therein requiring police to treat trans individuals as a cognizable group, and mandating police undergo training with regards to how to deal with trans people in their custody.
“It’s a human rights issue,” said Moreno, who added that the ordinance is intended to address a “hole in the policy of the police of Chicago.”