Lawsuit Alleges NYPD Harassed Transgender Woman, Kept Her Chained for 28 Hours over Minor Subway Violation


Over at Jezebel, Anna North blogs the story of transgendered woman Temmie Breslauer who was arrested on January 12 by the NYPD for the misdemeanor charge of using her father's discount subway fare card. Soon after, Breslauer alleges that "The arresting officers — the suit names one, Officer Shah — laughed at her" and asked about the status of her genitals. Then, says Breslauer's complaint (which Gothamist has in full):

"[S]he was fingerprinted, seated on a bench, then painfully chained to a fence wherein, for no apparent reason, her arm was lifted over her head and attached to the fence to make it appear that she was raising her hand in the classroom. She sat there in that position for 28 hours.

Adds North:

She also says officers not only refused to call her "she," they instead referred to her as "He-She", "Faggot," and "Lady GaGa," and asked her "So you like to suck dick? Or what?" Meanwhile, people arrested for the same minor crime (misdemeanor "theft of services") she was were calmly processed and allowed to leave. Finally, she was able to go before a judge, who gave her two days of community service. She says the whole ordeal aggravated her existing PTSD and left her sleepless and suicidal.

Breslauer's suit names the City of New York, Officer Shah, and several other officers as defendants. It accuses them of assault, battery, false imprisonment, and violation of Breslauer's civil rights, and asks for compensatory and punitive damages. 

A transgendered man who was arrested at that massive Occupy Wall Street Brooklyn Bridge protest last fall alleges similar harassment and painful handcuffing by the NYPD. And it's not just transgendered individuals; after Pittsburgh G-20 in 2009, several women who were arrested said they were leered at and harassed by police, with calls from one officer to separate the women and "get the hot ones out" and several accusations of excessive pat-downs. Another woman at G-20 said she heard an officer threaten to put a male arrestee in with "Bruno" who would make the man "his girlfriend." (Prison rape is not just for horribly unfunny comedies and police officers who were apparently auditioning for said comedies, it's also for 90,000-plus actual prisoners a year.)

This isn't just about women or transgendered people; it's not a demand for politically correct accommodations (though cops should recognize prisoners who might be in more danger and decline to toss them in with the general population). This is about excessive punishment for minor crimes and it's about (sadly relatively) small petty, nasty abuses of people who are in a vulnerable position. Anybody in handcuffs in police custody is in a vulnerable position. They might be innocent, or guilty. They might be afraid (I know I would be). They might know that regardless of cops' freedom to indulge their dislike of transgendered people, or their misogynistic tendencies, or their racism, or maybe just general misanthropy, people die in police custody for all sorts of reasons. Or, famously in the case of Abner Louima (NYPD sighting!), they might just get beaten and then raped. 

This isn't some Law and Order: SVU-type interrogation of a suspected child killer or serial rapist. There was no gain for the officers perpetuating this treatment except a bored, twisted power trip; a desire to make their prisoner uncomfortable and afraid. There's no way to spin that except deny that it happened at all. But as North pointed out, other transgendered individuals say it has happened to them as well.

Mike Riggs blogged a horror story a few months ago on what happened to a transgendered woman while she was being held in an immigrant detainment center awaiting deportation back to Mexico.

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  1. Over at Jezebel-

    Stop right there.

    1. Do you think I don’t know how you people are? By all means, reward my low expectations for you, fall into my trap.

      1. Crack open the comments section of Morning Links some time and you will see. Oh yes, you will learn about Jezebel.

        1. I’ve been reading Jezebel for years,dude. I know how bad it can be. And the Morning Links creeper fest is something to observe from a safe distance.

          1. I’ve been reading Jezebel for years,dude.

            Quite an admission. Who’s fallen into whose trap now?

            1. I know, I know. I gave up on arguing with them years ago. Io9 and Gawker at least have more interesting content in their leftistness.

              1. Lifehacker is by far the best in that family. Io9 I can read as well (though often too leftist see that stupid public funded science series).

          2. You may have just lost all the cool points you earned with your youth and alt text.

            1. Look, I knew it was a risk, but I like to be honest with you people.

              1. Hey! What do you mean, “you people”?

                1. You’ve just been othered.

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    2. I saw it there, but decided not to post it here. But to Steigerwald’s credit, she did write a bunch of other stuff.

  2. Let’s face it, in the criminal justice system professionalism ranks right up there with accountability on the list of priorities. The target of this kind of abuse of power is not limited to racial minorities or women or transgendered. Civilians in general are an enemy with which there can be no empathy.

    1. The only good cop is a whistle blower. Try to name one.

      I hate cops and anyone that does not share my viewpoint.

      1. Balko named four: Max Seifert, Adrian Schoolcraft, Anthony Acosta, and Sam Costales.

      2. Frank Serpico?

    2. Thank you.
      About time someone said this.

  3. The NYPD, abusive? NEVER!

  4. “…other transgendered individuals say it has happened to them as well”…just like Bigfoot sightings and UFO abductees.

    I bet there’s even no such thing as the “NYPD”.

  5. alt text proof: how does one cope a feel?

  6. So, does “transgendered woman” mean someone who started as a woman or as a man?

      1. Note the cues. North said part of the complaint was the officers refusing to call her “she.” Transgendered woman means male to female.

  7. It was necessary because they had to figure out the proper procedures…it says so in the book of procedures. So this, too, was proper.

    That is all.

  8. Also this.

    You tell me – is refusing to kneel on rocks justify being tased in the nuts?

  9. Fuck off you liberalterians! The police are important to protect our liberties!

    1. And violate them.

  10. Cue dunphy showing up to insist it’s all just a few bad apples, and how the New Professionalism isn’t bullshit, in 3… 2… 1…

  11. You think that’s bad? Check out this dashcam footage!

  12. creeper fest


    I mean, slightly cooler than that.

    1. I was never cool!!!

  13. I suddenly have a taste for porridge.

  14. You need to comb over this post for typos but here’s one that made me chuckle:

    “They be afraid.”

  15. Lady Gaga. That one is pretty good.
    Fuck MTA pigs.

  16. Prison rape is not just for horribly unfunny comedies . . .

    Ordinarily you’re right. But there’s a brief prison scene at the end of Hall Pass that was absolutely hilarious. Yes, even prison rape becomes funny in the hands of the Farrelly brothers

  17. What we need is government OUT of our lives. We don’t need more regulations.
    People should not be allowed to sue the taxpayer for isolated incidents.

    It’s all Obama’s fault for being a muslim that goes to a baptist church and practices communism. He wasn’t even born here.

  18. Hey, thugs gonna thug. Its what they do. Its who they are.

    What’s interesting is that, over 28 hours, there would have been several shift changes. I’m willing to bet there isn’t a single officer working out of that precinct who didn’t see her chained up at the beginning, and end, of their shifts. Some even saw her again at the beginning of their next shift.

    And not a single one of them did a fucking thing about it.

    Spare me your “few bad apples” bullshit. Anyone who saw that she had been chained like that FOR THEIR ENTIRE SHIFT, and did nothing, is a bad cop. Period. Full stop. No excuses.

    1. ^^^^^This^^^^^

  19. Ohhh yes…”THE GAYS” they are ALL innocent and pure and perfect and the Eternal Victims. It’s not like the “Gay” agenda is super-statist and authoritarian or anything like that.

    Stop sucking up to the “gay” left, it’s getting pathetic.

  20. I believe that police officers who belittle or abuse transgender women are really just ashamed that they feel the need to put on false airs of masculinity when they really want to be more in touch with their feminine side. In fact, I dare say such officers are self-hating transgendered women themselves, and I feel a great deal of pity for them when I consider their self-hatred.

    In future, we should make it a priority to help these police officers who abuse transgender women to get in touch with their own femininity, and even help them get the gender reassignment surgery they secretly crave. Come on, let’s make it happen, chop chop!

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