New York City police officers charged a transgender woman with "false personation" and used pink handcuffs to mock her after they arrested her for walking through a park after hours, a lawsuit charges.
Linda Dominguez says in her lawsuit filed Tuesday that she was hit with the "bogus" charge of false personation — or knowingly misrepresenting her identity —even though she explained that she was transgender and gave the officers both her current name and the traditionally masculine first name she used before she legally changed her name to Linda.
The lawsuit says the 43-year-old Dominguez "had no intent to deceive the police or prevent them from learning her name or her identity" when she was arrested April 18.
A police spokeswoman said the department could not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit. The department said in a statement that it "is committed to serving and meeting the needs of the LGBTQ community with sensitivity, equity and effectiveness."
According to the lawsuit, which names New York City and three police officers as defendants, Dominguez was walking through a Bronx park to her apartment when officers stopped her for being in the park after it was closed.
The lawsuit filed by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union says that Dominguez speaks limited English and had difficulty understanding the officers, but that she first gave them her original name along with her birth date and address.
The officers took her to the station house, where she explained to a Spanish-speaking officer that she was transgender and her legal name was now Linda, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says the officers placed Dominguez in a cell, handcuffed to a bar or pipe using pink handcuffs, and left her in the handcuffs all night.
The officers referred to Dominguez by her masculine first name throughout her detention, laughed at her and referred to her as "he" and "him," the lawsuit says.
Dominguez was arraigned the next day on charges of trespassing for being in the park after hours, as well as false impersonation. The charges were dismissed in August.
Dominguez, a licensed cosmetologist and an activist for the rights of transgender immigrants, says that the arrest caused her "mental anguish, ongoing humiliation and embarrassment" and that she remains afraid of the police.
The lawsuit charges that Dominguez's treatment violated the police department's patrol guide, which since 2012 has directed officers to refer to people by names and pronouns consistent with their gender identities.
"This highlights the way the NYPD continues to criminalize transgender people just for existing," Bobby Hodgson, an NYCLU attorney representing Dominguez, said Wednesday. "It's one thing to change a rule on the books, but it's another thing to change the culture of an institution like the NYPD. Here they failed to do that."