At least one D.C. and one Prince George’s County police officer is under investigation by their respective departments for allegedly threatening to arrest transgender sex workers unless they agree to engage in a sexual act with the officers, according to D.C.’s Fox 5 News.
“A transgender prostitute who spoke with Fox 5 said that the officers are using their authority to coerce the prostitutes into sexual acts in exchange for not arresting them,” the TV news station reported on Nov. 15.
“Fox 5 has obtained video that shows an officer – dressed in plain clothes – arriving at a location on Eastern Avenue in Northeast [D.C.] – where one of the incidents is alleged to have occurred – in a marked Prince George’s County police cruiser,” Fox 5 reported.
“Other images show a man wearing only a D.C. police polo shirt and naked below the waist,” Fox 5 News reported. “Multiple sources have told Fox 5 that the man is a D.C. police lieutenant.”
An area along Eastern Avenue, N.E., which serves as the D.C.-P.G. County line, is widely known as a location where transgender sex workers congregate and seek out customers.
D.C. and P.G. County police released separate statements last week saying they were investigating an officer from their respective departments in response to the Fox 5 News report but they provided few specific details.
“We are aware of the allegations of misconduct against one of our sworn members,” D.C. police said in their statement. “MPD Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating the allegation. The member has been placed on a non-contact status pending the outcome of the investigation,” the statement says.
D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, told the Washington Blade the unit was “made aware” of the investigation during its “initial stages.” Parson added, “And our members are always available to provide support should we be requested by those handling the investigation. We have no further comment.”
In its own statement P.G. Police said, “There is an allegation that an off-duty Prince George’s County police officer exchanged money for a sexual act while he was in his marked cruiser in the District of Columbia.” The statement adds, “The case is being investigated by Metropolitan Police. Our internal affairs division is handling the administrative investigation. Within hours of learning about the allegation, the officer was suspended with pay while the case moves forward.”
News of the two officers’ alleged efforts to coerce one or more transgender sex works for sexual favors in exchange for not arresting them surfaced less than a week before D.C.’s annual Transgender Day of Remembrance was scheduled to take place on Nov. 20 at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington.
Although the event commemorates transgender people who have lost their lives to violence, some participants in the annual event have raised the issue of alleged police abuse of trans sex workers, who activists say are often forced into that line of work as a means of survival.
Transgender activist Earline Budd, one of the lead organizers of D.C.’s Trans Day of Remembrance, said she knows one of the transgender women who complained about the two police officers and the woman’s attorney. Budd is an official with the local sex workers advocacy group HIPS.
Budd said the attorney has asked her not to disclose his name or the name of the sex worker who made the allegations against the police officers at this time.
“He said he will make a statement on behalf of his client(s) when he is ready,” Budd told the Blade in an email.
Fox 5 News reported that the sex worker who made the allegations said she was fearful of retaliation if her identity were to become known.
“While I am saddened at this reporting [of the alleged police officers targeting the trans woman] and that this still happens, I am clear that this does not taint the entire MPD force and there are many who are doing good work to help keep transgender people safe,” Budd said in her email.