The Town of Cicero settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by Bianca Feliciano, a young Latina transgender woman, who alleged she was illegally stopped, searched and harassed by Cicero Police Officers. In settling Ms. Feliciano’s litigation, Cicero agreed to enact a new policy regarding the treatment of transgender people by Cicero Police Officers, becoming one of the first metropolitan police departments in the country to do so.Cicero also agreed to pay Feliciano $10,000.
“We are pleased that the Town of Cicero is taking a step forward by creating this policy,” said Joey Mogul, a partner at the People’s Law Office and Director of the Civil Rights Clinic at DePaul University College of Law. “We are hopeful that this ends the unjust and abusive treatment of transgender people by Cicero Police Officers and we hope that other police departments follow suit.” The litigation claimed that the absence of such a policy allowed and encouraged Cicero Police Officers to treat transgender and gender non-conforming people in abusive, threatening, and discriminatory ways.
A very limited number of metropolitan police departments around the U.S.have enacted written policies on how to properly and respectfully treat transgender people. This past year, the Los Angeles and New York City Police Departments passed such policies, while the District of Columbia enacted one in 2007. Last month, the Department of Justice obtained a consent decree against the New Orleans Police Department setting forth comprehensive provisions regarding the protection of the rights of transgender people. The City ofChicagocurrently has no written policies regulating how transgender people should be treated.
In response to the settlement, Ms. Feliciano said “I’m glad to settle this case and I hope this policy will mean that what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else. LGBTQ youth and others should never have to go through the abuse I suffered from the Cicero Police Department.”
The settlement stems from litigation brought by Feliciano in which she alleged that Cicero Police Officers verbally abused, harassed, and taunted her on the basis of her gender-identity. Feliciano alleged that on February 6, 2011, she and a companion, both of whom are transgender women of color, were walking down a street in Cicero when two police officers stopped them and wrongfully accused them of engaging in sex work. During the course of the stop, the defendant officers ridiculed Feliciano and her friend because they were transgender and demanded that they identify themselves.
After presenting the officers with her State of Illinois identification card that properly indicated her name and gender as female, Feliciano was threatened with violence. Cicero Police officers claimed that if Feliciano was properly disciplined and punished she would not be the way she is right now. The officers also insulted her by denying her gender-identity, stating “‘You are not female, you have a dick between your legs,’” and threatened her with jail claiming she was committing an act of fraud because her ID said she was female. She was subsequently arrested for violating two Cicero Town ordinances, neither of which related to any crimes of sex work. These charges were subsequently dismissed.
Feliciano’s complaint alleged she was subjected to further offensive and abusive conduct at the Cicero Police Station. The officers refused to acknowledge her gender as female when they repeatedly called her a man, referred to her with male pronouns, and made crude, offensive remarks about her “titties” and genitalia. When completing her arrest reports, the officers used the former male name given to her at birth, and they refused to return her State Identification card, even after they were shown the legal documentation demonstrating she had legally changed her name.
Ms. Feliciano was represented by Mogul and John L. Stainthorp of the People’s Law Office, Owen Daniel-McCarter of the Transformative Justice Law Project and professor in DePaul University’s Civil Rights Clinic, along with students in DePaul’s Civil Rights clinic.
To read more about the work of People’s Law Office in opposing homophobic and transphobic attacks on the LGBTQ community, visit the Criminalization of LGBTQ People page on this site.