Texas State Troopers conducting body cavity searches at traffic stops

Unconstitutional practices are not isolated incidents.  Photo: KTXA-TV

WASHINGTON, August 14, 2013  Texas State Troopers are conducting illegal body cavity searches on the side of Texas highways after traffic stops, according to a recent lawsuit filed in federal court. Complaints have arisen from a number of women feel who violated and humiliated. 

On Memorial Day 2012 Brandy Hamilton and Alexandria Randle were pulled over for speeding in Brazoria County, near Huston, Texas and subsequently given a roadside body cavity search—front and back—because the officer that pulled them over smelled marijuana that was ultimately never found. The state troopers involved were fired after and investigation, but the female officer who physically performed the cavity search has been recently reinstated.


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Six weeks earlier, on the opposite side of the state, two women had a disturbingly similar experience on a Texas highway. Thirty-eight year-old Angel Dobbs and her 24-yearl-old niece were also given a cavity search when troopers observed them throw a cigarette butt out their car window.                                             

Besides being completely illegal, unconstitutional, and dehumanizing, it appears that these are not isolated incidents. 

 “The fact that they both happened means there is some sort of (department) policy” Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project told the Daily News. “It’s such a prohibited practice. I don’t know why they think they can do this. It’s mind-boggling.”
The searches were conducted by a female officer summoned to the scene, and dash cam video of the incidents show the officer did not change the latex gloves between searches. The illegal searches were conducted on the side of Texas highways, in full view of passing motorists.

“We were assaulted on the side of the road,” Dobbs said after the incident.


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Even though Dobbs complained to the troopers’ supervisor in August of 2012, a formal investigation was not undertaken until October, when Dobbs decided to seek an attorney.

The Dobbs women filed suit in December and settled their case for $184,000. The officers were fired and criminal charges are pending against both former officers for sexual assault and theft (a bottle of Vicodin was missing from Dobbs’ purse).

Hamilton and Randle filed a federal lawsuit against the troopers and DPS, claiming the searches were unconstitutional. No criminal charges were filed against the officers involved in their case, both officers were fired but the female officer who actually performed the search was fired and subsequently reinstated in June.

“It was determined that the relatively inexperienced trooper was directed by a more senior trooper to conduct the inappropriate search,” said Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) director Steve McCraw in a statement Friday afternoon. “While the actions of Trooper Bui constitute misconduct, I believe her actions are mitigated such that she should not be terminated from the agency.”

There have been similar cases of illegal body cavity searches during traffic stops in Florida and Milwaukee. These incidents, however, were not captured on video. 

The videos of both Texas cases are below. They are extremely disturbing to watch.

 


READ MORE: A World in Our Backyard by Laura Sesana



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Laura Sesana

Laura Sesana is a writer and DC, Maryland attorney, joining the Communities in 2012.  She is the author of Colombia: Natural Parks, and has also written several articles on literary criticism.  She writes about food, health, nutrition, women’s legal issues, and the environment.  

In addition to writing for the Communities, Laura also works as an attorney and legal content writer.

 

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