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15 December 2010, 3:00 pm One Comment

Tokenized: Off-Duty Officer Allegedly Assaults Trans Woman

Submission by Sylvia Renee, TNG columnist

Earlier this week the DC Trans Coalition released a statement regarding allegations of an off-duty Metro PD officer assaulting a local trans-woman (full disclosure, I am affiliated with DCTC).

From the press release:

“According to the Blade, Chloe Moore and a friend approached a man – off-duty Officer Raphael Radon – to ask for a light for a cigarette. Upon discovering Moore and her friend were trans, Radon proceeded to utter transphobic epithets and threatened violence, and, according to Moore, also shoved her. At this juncture, Moore used pepper spray in self-defense. Radon proceeded to chase Moore two blocks, and beat her on the sidewalk.” In her own words, “He grabbed the back of my neck and he throws me on the ground,” Moore said. “My midsection was on the curb and he puts his knee in my back real hard, and it caused a lot of pain.”

It is worth noting here that Officer Radon did not reveal himself until after he had thrown her to the ground. Soon after on-duty officers arrived on the scene where they then ascertained that Officer Radon, had in fact, initiated the “interaction” – which is a good metaphor for assault. Inexplicably, Ms Moore was the one handcuffed and taken into custody for simple assault against the advice of officers who had arrived at the scene.

So let’s review: A young woman and her friend are walking down the street until they come across a man who then proceeds to threaten them. She maces him and runs away. Under normal circumstances, we like to call this “self-defense.” Maybe you have heard of it? Then, the man recovers and chases her for two blocks, throws her to the ground and begins to assault her. I can only imagine that are two very real fears running through her mind – rape because she is a woman and murder because she is trans.

Were this man not a police officer, the case would be quite clear. But instead, many sources believe Radon’s version simply because he is a police officer. In his report, Ms Moore solicited him and he rejected the offer. Then she maced him, which forced him to pursue her for assaulting a (off-duty and unidentified) police officer. The story totally makes sense … except for the part where there are two collaborating witnesses and fellow police officers who say otherwise.

The general public might be inclined to believe Ms Moore. That is, if she were not trans and if she had not previously been arrested on solicitation charges. Those two coalesce into common perception that she has no rights and especially no right to her body.

This case is not an isolated incident. DC MPD has a history of abusing trans women on the street for no other reason than “walking while trans,” which used to be (and in some cases still is) enough probable cause to suspect someone of being a sex worker. I should amend that, enough probable cause to suspect a person of color of being a sex worker. (I have personally seen several instances of police officers abusing trans women of color through my work with a local sex-worker-outreach organization.)

It gets much worse when trans women are in custody. Once there they are placed with men rather than in gender appropriate facilities. This almost certainly guarantees that they will be subjected to psychological, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse by both the inmates and the guards.

A personal acquaintance of mine once served 12 years on a 7 year sentence because she was trans and because at first she fought back when the guards raped her, beat her, and pimped her out to other inmates. They denied her access to her medically prescribed hormones. They denied her anything that would let her feel a woman. Not because of regulations but because of sheer transphobic sadism. Then they got tired of her, so they gave her to the inmates.

The inmates would sell her for a pack of cigarettes, bet her in a poker game, or even just to repay a favor. Each one of her owners would tattoo her body so that everyone knew who she belonged to. Now that she is finally out of prison she is covered from head to toe in reminders of every man that owned her while she was in prison.

Here in DC there are supposedly laws in place to prevent abuse like that from happening. Supposedly.

Were Officer Radon a civilian (and it could be argued that he should be / is when not on official duty) the case would be very different. Instead, he is held to a different standard of justice. When such a different standard exists, everyone loses. Marginalized communities are given more reason to distrust the police. The police are all collectively saddled with the reputation of abusive sadists. Then people start reacting more aggressively to defend themselves against the threat of police brutality. Then police start reacting more aggressively against this aggression. Which justifies the community mistrust. As you can see it becomes a vicious cycle escalating violence that makes all of us less safe.

There is a broader discussion here on the trend of increasingly excessive police brutality that I clearly have strong opinions about. But this is not the place. Instead I will end with a comment from my comrade Sadie-Ryanne Vashti, of the DC Trans Coalition.

“We call on our allies to stand up and reject transphobia perpetuated by the criminal justice system. No one should be arrested for being the victim of an assault.”

Stand up and stand with us.

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One Comment »

  • Samara said:

    This is horrifying. Where can I send my complaints? Is there an email/phone number for the police department?