Patti Hammond Shaw is suing the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia and the US Marshals Service for mistreatment during a 2009 arrest.
Shaw says she turned herself in to the 6th District station on June 18, 2009 after receiving in the mail a warrant for her arrest on the charge of filing a false police report. Even though she was over a decade post-operative and possessed identification proving her to be legally female, DC police placed in a cell with men. While there prisoners demanded to see her vagina, breasts and buttocks.
The DC police remanded her to the custody of US marshals, who insisted on calling her "Melvin", even though that was no longer her legal name. She was searched by a male marshal who "groped her breasts, buttocks, and between her legs repeatedly and excessively", while other marshals were making crude comments about her breasts and gender.
The marshals placed her in a cell with about 30 men who had been booked for traffic violations.
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.Shaw says she was forced to urinate in a cup in full view of the rest of the detainees and that she was then chained to a male detainee who touched her inappropriately as they were escorted to DC Superior Court. Shaw says that although they told the man to stop harassing her, they also told Shaw to ignore the treatment…and did nothing when the fondling continued.
Going through something like this was very, very, very hard for me being a transsexual woman. I kept telling them I was a woman and they said, "That’s what they all say." They didn’t believe that I had sex reassignment surgery. They didn’t believe me at all.The problem was that when people are taken into custody for the first time ever, they are given an identification number that remains forever linked with their name.
D.C. police in 2007 adopted a policy that states trans arrestees must remain in a holding cell by themselves. Personnel are required to remain cognizant of a detainee’s gender identity and expression, and immediately notify their commanding officer if their record indicates a different gender than the one that they present at the time of their arrest. The policy further states that MPD staff should pass this information along to the U.S. Marshals Service or other law enforcement agencies that may transport a prisoner.Neither the DCMPD nor the US Marshals Service responded to the Blade's request for comment.
U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle last November dismissed Shaw’s lawsuit on procedural grounds, but she said she could pursue them in U.S. District Court in spite of her belief that they would ultimately not proceed.Shaw's attorney, Jeffrey light says that Shaw was jailed in relation to what her genitals had formerly been.
There’s absolutely no legitimate reason for that. Individuals have different ideas about where they would be safest. Some people want to be in a cell by themselves, some people would prefer to be in the general population with people of the gender with which they identify. It makes sense when anybody is in custody in the criminal system where they feel safest is taken into account.