The NSW Police Force has launched an internal investigation into allegations by a transgender woman that she was assaulted by officers from Redfern Local Area Command (LAC).
Indi Edwards, who identifies as female and will soon have gender realignment surgery, said the incident occurred at her Alexandria home when she phoned crisis support centre, Lifeline.
“I called Lifeline after being rejected by my family when I told them about my surgery,” Ms Edwards, a transgender activist, said.
“While I was talking to Lifeline, the call dropped out because the battery on my cordless phone went flat,” she said. Ms Edwards said she placed the phone back in its cradle to recharge it, and intended calling Lifeline back, but within ten minutes there was “loud banging” at her door.
Ms Edwards said four police officers charged into her apartment when she answered the door. When she insisted they leave, she was roughly thrown onto her bed, held down and handcuffed, then dragged out of her apartment and thrown into a paddy wagon, she alleges.
“It was absolutely humiliating because I was half naked and the whole street could see,” she said. “I was freezing cold, dragged through the rain with hardly any clothes on.”
Ms Edwards was taken to Concord Hospital, approximately fifteen kilometres away, and released shortly afterwards, when a mental health team assessed her as posing no risk to herself or others.
Police did not lay any charges against Ms Edwards, who said she sustained numerous bruises from the officers’ rough treatment and from “rolling around the back of the paddy wagon every time they turned a corner or stopped at a red light”.
“I couldn’t hold myself steady because they handcuffed my arms behind my back,” she said.
She further claimed that officers referred to her as “he” and “him”, except in front of medical professionals, when they used the pronouns “she” and “her”.
“They were trying to rile me up,” she claimed.
While the incident occurred almost three months ago, Ms Edwards said she had not gone to the media earlier because police had promised a thorough investigation. “But it seems now they’ve swept the whole thing under the carpet,” she said.
The allegations have sparked concern from equality campaigners.
Equal rights activist Gary Burns urged senior police to mount “a thorough, open and impartial investigation into these very serious allegations”.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe, sexologist and spokesperson for Sex and Gender Education (SAGE) Australia, was perturbed by the apparent lack of confidentiality surrounding Ms Edwards’ call to Lifeline.
Dr O’Keefe added that it was vital for police to be trained in dealing with sex and gender diverse (SGD) people.
“The SGD groups are very diverse and officers must be trained in this area of knowledge,” she said.
A NSW Police spokesperson said the matter was being investigated. “Redfern [LAC] has received a complaint about an incident that occurred in April,” said the spokesperson.
“The matter is now under investigation and is being oversighted by the Professional Standards Manager at Central Metropolitan Region.”