Content Warning: This piece details police brutality against a transgender person.
The New York agency tasked with investigating discrimination complaints is staring down a lawsuit of its own from a transgender woman.
Deanna LeTray is suing the New York State Division of Human Rights for refusing to take up her police misconduct case against the Watertown Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
The suit, filed last week by the New York Civil Liberties Union in the state’s Supreme Court, claims that the Division shirked its responsibility when it dismissed LeTray’s case in October.
The case stems from an incident last September where LeTray’s daughter’s boyfriend threatened her with a gun at her home and police were called, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges that Watertown police degraded her for being trans, asking “How long have you dressed like that?
According to the Watertown Daily Times, LeTray was arrested and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree obstructing government administration, and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
The suit claims that once LeTray was in custody, Jefferson County Jail sheriff’s deputies forcibly removed her hairpiece and “hogtied” her by binding her hands and feet together. She was invasively strip-searched.
“Ms. LeTray spent the night in a cell before being brought before a judge without her coat, shoes, or underwear,” the complaint stated.
“They took it upon themselves to degrade me and humiliate me,” LeTray told INTO. “They physically harmed me. They mentally harmed me. Emotionally, it’s the worst thing that can happen to you.”
The Division of Human Rights declined to hear LeTray’s case, stating that it has no jurisdiction over police departments.
But the NYCLU disagrees, stating that police services are public accommodations and are protected under New York human rights law.
“Investigating discrimination and abuse allegations against public agencies like the police is exactly what the agency tasked with enforcing the human rights law is supposed to do,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, in a statement. “The Commissioner should reassess and make clear that discrimination and abuse at the hands of police or in jails is under the purview of the human rights division.”
The suit seeks to compel the Division to reverse its dismissal and hear the case. Short of that, LeTray says there is no justice.
“It was already done to me,” LeTray told INTO. “Justice would be to prevent it from happening to someone else.”
The Division of Human Rights and the Watertown Police Department did not respond to requests to comment. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department did not have a spokesperson available to respond to media inquiries by press time.
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