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Henderson police officer files lawsuit against city, police department

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Posted at 4:05 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 19:05:22-05

HENDERSON (KTNV) — An agnostic transgender Henderson police officer is suing the City of Henderson and its police department for discrimination.

Bridget Ward filed the lawsuit on Dec. 23. The lawsuit claims that the city of Henderson and its police department fostered a culture that condones disparate treatment on the basis of gender, gender identity and expression, and religion.

Ward was hired as a police officer in August 2008. She was born as a male and identified as a male until 2016 when she informed the department that she intended to transition.

At that time, the department had no policies, procedures or guidelines in place related to transgender employees. But in 2017, the department chose to provide training, relying on a cartoon unicorn named “Danny the Gender Unicorn” to explain transgender persons. Ward found the cartoon to be highly offensive to herself and other LGBTQ persons.

The lawsuit claims that Henderson hired LaTesha Watson in 2017 to serve as its chief of police and to reform the police department, which had a reputation as a “good ole boys club.”

However, the lawsuit alleges that Watson publicly expressed her Christian religious beliefs during her tenure and favored employees who shared their beliefs.

Ward is also claiming that in 2018 she was told she would received a specialized assignment but the position was later given to a male officer with no previous qualifying experience. Instead, she was assigned to patrol and took a cut in pay.

Ward also claims that because she was assigned to patrol, she was forced to use deadly force during a domestic call in 2018 and was shot in the foot by a fellow police officer. The lawsuit alleges that if she had received the specialized assignment, she would not be dealing with the resulting emotional trauma and permanent disability.

The lawsuit also includes the accusation of dead naming. This is when someone is identified by their pre-transition name. According to the lawsuit, Chief of Staff Burns sent a department-wide email in January 2019 listing police officers who responded to the 1 October shooting. Ward’s former name was used in the email.

At about the same time, Burns also allegedly retaliated against Ward by accusing her of wrongdoing in the deadly force shooting.

After Chief Watson was terminated, Burns was offered the position she was previously denied. She was also offered $1,200 in lieu of back pay to release all claims. She accepted the assignment, but declined the offer of money.

RELATED STORY: Henderson fires police chief LaTesha Watson

In 2019, a new chief of police was sworn in. During the swearing in ceremony, the ceremony included religious references and a blessing that Ward found offensive.

In August 2019, the lawsuit says that the president of the Henderson Police Officers Union referred to Ward’s legs as sexy and touched her leg above the knee in a sexual manner.

In January 2020, Ward was made aware of a transphobic cartoon posted on Facebook by a Henderson police captain named Eric Buck. The cartoon was also liked by several Henderson employees, include the administrative assistant to the chief.

Ward is claiming that despite filing several complaints, the police department and city have not taken them seriously. Therefore, she was forced to file a lawsuit.

13 Action News reached out to the City of Henderson and received the following statement:

The City of Henderson denies all claims of wrongdoing brought forward by Officer Ward and will vehemently defend itself against these false allegations.