Spokane, Washington — For 15-year-old Jenna Lunsford, it was the first time she had ever seen a police officer, and she was terrified.
Lunsford is transgender, and is one of the first transgender people to ever be arrested and booked in Spokane, the city with the nation’s third-largest homeless population.
“I feel like it’s a privilege, just like it is a privilege to be a white person,” Lunsfys first encounter with police came in February, when she was walking to school with her friend, the two of them with their mothers.
When they approached a red light, Lunsworth said, she felt the officer was going to arrest her.
She was so terrified that she didn’t even put her hand on her gun.
“The next thing I know, she was on the ground with me.
She took me to the ground and she grabbed my butt and I was like, ‘Are you serious?'”
Lunsworth, who identifies as female, said she was told by police officer Brian Williams, that she was under arrest for “possession of marijuana,” and she had a prior arrest for resisting arrest.
She said the officer told her she had to get into the back of the patrol car to get her ID and said she needed to put on a female disguise to be allowed to go home.
Lots of times during her encounter with the officer, Lonsford said she felt like she was being used as a pawn.
“We have a right to be treated like human beings,” Lonsfys said.
“The police officer had to do what he had to to get us arrested.”
Williams said he was called into the station for an internal investigation, but said the officers actions were “over the top.”
The arrest of a transgender person is a felony under Washington law, and police in Spokane have said they have no policy in place that would allow transgender people who identify as female to be arrested as a male.
The charge is a misdemeanor in most states, but Spokane has a law on the books that allows people to be charged with “gender-based harassment” and other offenses if they are “harassing or disorderly.”
The incident was recorded on video, and Lunsdys attorney, Sarah Anderson, said the incident was not recorded in public, but on a private, secure video camera.
Lunss attorney said it’s common practice in Spokane to use police body cameras for officer safety, but she did not know if police officers were wearing the devices during the incident.
“It was an outrageous situation that should never have occurred,” Anderson said.
Landsford was eventually released on her own recognizance.
But the incident still left her upset.
“That’s not how I wanted to be portrayed,” she said.
Williams told KOMO News that the department has been told there is no policy that would make transgender people arrest.
He also said he would not be commenting further.
The Spokane Police Department has said in the past that transgender people should not be arrested.
In a statement, a spokesperson wrote: “The department does not have a policy prohibiting transgender people from wearing a disguise.
If a transgender citizen or member of the public is approached by a police agency, the person must remove their clothing and comply with the request of the officer.
The person is asked to identify themselves before they are removed from the scene.”