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Transgender woman sues D.C. police, U.S. marshals

MICHAEL K. LAVERS | Washington Blade
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
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A transgender D.C. woman alleges in a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service that she was improperly placed with male prisoners after a 2009 arrest.

Patti Hammond Shaw of Southeast Washington said she turned herself in to officers at the Sixth District station on June 18, 2009, after she received a letter that stated there was a warrant for her arrest for filing a false police report.

Patti Shaw

Shaw claims that she showed officers her identification that proved she was legally female, but they placed her in a cell in the men’s section. She further alleges that male prisoners “asked to see her vagina, breasts and buttocks.”

D.C. police subsequently remanded Shaw, who underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1999, to the custody of U.S. marshals. She said she insisted that she is a woman, but Shaw claims that they insisted she was a man and referred to her by her birth name Melvin.

The lawsuit states that the male marshal who searched Shaw “groped her breasts, buttocks and between her legs repeatedly and excessively.” She further alleges that other marshals made crude comments about her breasts and gender.

The lawsuit claims that marshals placed Shaw in a holding cell with approximately 30 other men who were going to traffic court.

“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,” it reads.

Shaw also claims that she was forced to urinate in a cup in “full view of the men in the holding cell.” She further states that a male detainee to whom she was chained touched her “inappropriately several times” as they went into D.C. Superior Court.

Shaw said that the marshals told the man to stop harassing her and instructed her to ignore him. She alleges that the male detainee continued to harass her and the marshals “did not take any further action.”

“Going through something like this was very, very, very hard for me being a transsexual woman,” Shaw told the Blade. “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.”

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