A transgender woman from the Bronx is suing the NYPD over a 2018 arrest in which she was harassed by officers and erroneously charged with false personation, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.
Linda Dominguez said she was walking through a park in the Bronx on her way home from work in April when she was stopped by three police officers who asked for her name. Dominguez, whose first language is not English, had legally changed her name in 2017 to align with her gender identity but gave the officers her previous legal name believing that was what she was supposed to do, according to the NYCLU, which is representing her in the case.
The officers arrested Dominguez because she was in the park after it had closed, and she was taken to the 44th Precinct in Mount Eden, her lawyers said.
Despite explaining to a Spanish-speaking officer at the precinct that she was transgender and legally changed her name, providing the updated information as well, Dominguez’s lawyers said she was still charged with false personation in addition to criminal trespass. While jailed overnight, Dominguez said officers mocked her and used male pronouns while addressing her — alleged actions that go against the NYPD’s patrol guide.
“The NYPD must take responsibility for the culture of discrimination that pervades the department,” NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said. “Being transgender is not a crime. The police’s own guidelines prohibit discrimination against trans New Yorkers, but clearly the NYPD is failing to make sure officers follow their own rules and honor the dignity of all New Yorkers.”
Being charged with false personation means Dominguez is accused of knowingly misrepresenting her name with the purpose of keeping her actual identity from police. The lawsuit argues Dominguez should not have faced the charge since she provided both her previous and current legal names to investigators.
The lawsuit also notes that the NYPD patrol guide specifies a person cannot be charged with false personation for giving a preferred name rather than a legal name.
“It is hard to imagine the police arresting a white person for walking through a park, even if it were after dark. It is outrageous that a police officer not only did that, but then claimed a woman committed false personation simply because she is transgender and provided both her previous and current name,” ACLU senior staff attorney Gabriel Arkles said. “Unfortunately, though, it’s not surprising. Police misconduct toward LGBTQ people, especially trans women of color, has a long history in this city and this country, both before and after Stonewall.”
A judge dismissed both charges against Dominguez in August and the criminal case was terminated in her favor, according to the lawsuit.
A spokeswoman for the NYPD said the department is committed to serving the needs of the LGBTQ community, but declined to comment on the specifics of Dominguez’s case.
"The NYPD has carefully and thoughtfully designed and implemented effective policies, training protocols, outreach initiatives, and disciplinary processes," the NYPD said in an emailed statement Tuesday. "The NYPD will continue to communicate and collaborate with the LGBTQ community as we seek to further strengthen our relationship with all of the communities throughout the city that we protect and serve."
Dominguez is suing for unspecified damages as well as a declaratory statement with regard to violations of her civil rights, human rights and constitutional rights, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in State Supreme Court in the Bronx.