An investigation out of Georgia has uncovered multiple police departments engaged in strip searches as well as searches inside the pants of drivers pulled over for minor traffic violations.
A driver argues against an officer’s illegal search off camera as he is forced to unbuckle his pants (2:05).
“He was like, ‘Just unbuckle all your clothes’ and put his hands down inside my pants,” Terry Phillips told Channel 2 Action News.
While sitting in the passenger seat after his wife was pulled over for a suspended registration, Phillips was unexpectedly ordered to exit the vehicle by Forest Park police. Coming up empty on a vehicle search, police suddenly turned their attention back towards Phillips, demanding he submit to a search as well.
Expecting a legal, outside the clothes pat down, Phillips consented to the officer’s requests, only to have the officer demand he pull down his pants on the side of the road.
“That’s illegal, man, you can’t do that. You can’t do that,” Phillips told the officer.
Noting that Phillips was aware of his rights, the officer suddenly claimed to smell marijuana, demanding Phillips remain still as he continued his illegal search.
Although officers are allowed to pat down the outside of clothing to check for weapons, the officer clearly violated Phillips’ rights by demanding he remove his clothing. Unsurprisingly, no marijuana was found on Phillips or in the vehicle.
“That’s a general strip-search, which you’re not allowed to do unless it’s an emergency or it’s done in a controlled environment by professional people where other people aren’t there to look in a public setting,” Phillips’ attorney Mark Bullman said. “You can’t be moving people’s clothing and opening them, particularly in situations where there’s not been a custodial arrest.”
Internal records obtained by Channel 2 revealed that a police captain had already reported a “unit-wide” issue regarding searches six months prior. Following the discovery of Phillips encounter, several others came forward as well, revealing the same invasive searches during minor traffic stops.
Another passenger, Ben Kassars, was subjected to a similar search after his roommate was pulled over for allegedly following a vehicle to closely. Claiming the men had drugs and threatening them with jail if they refused, officers went inside Kassars’ pants as he leaned on the back of his vehicle.
“I was humiliated… They took my belt off, unzipped my pants,” Kassars said. “They looked in my pants on the front, the side, the back. It was terrible. I felt like a girl. I felt defenseless. I felt like there was nothing I could do about it.”
No drugs were discovered on either men.
The report also detailed truck driver Camishi Jones, who was pulled over by a Cobb County officer after reportedly driving in the left lane on Interstate 75. Taken out of her vehicle for an alleged weapons search, Camishi experienced a TSA-style pat down from the male officer.
“He was all touching my breast, up in my vagina area… He actually stuck his hand up in between my buttocks,” Jones said. “I felt that I was being molested with his hands.”
No weapons were discovered on Jones.
Another man, Alphonzo Eleby, was approached by DeKalb county police while talking to a friend at a local gas station as he waited for his tank to fill. Having nothing to hide, Eleby consented to an officer’s search request like the others, assuming a normal pat down would take place.
“He went inside my underwear and searched my genital area,” Eleby said. “It’s just embarrassing. I’ve got everybody seeing me exposed.”
Despite having no drugs, officers claimed Eleby threw “something” to the ground, charging him with possession of marijuana. After the gas station’s surveillance video of the altercation was released, it was revealed that Eleby never threw anything at all, with the officer instead appearing to throw something.
Charges were quickly dropped.
The investigation found more than half a dozen similar encounters with departments all across the state, leading many to wonder if a state wide policy has been quietly implemented by police. Incredibly, similar incidents have been reported all across the country as well in recent years.
In December 2012, two Texas women in yet another minor traffic stop were forced to submit to roadside body cavity searches. Claiming to smell marijuana, an officer searched the vagina and anus of both women with the same pair of latex gloves.
No marijuana was found by officers.
Just last November, a Southern New Mexico man, pulled over for allegedly failing to make a complete stop, was forced to undergo two illegal anal searches, three enemas and a colonoscopy after police claimed he was “clenching his buttocks” and concealing drugs.
The illegal search failed to produce any drugs.
Unfortunately, the current political climate seems to favor such behavior, as officers continually escape punishment. Meanwhile, police who publicly pledge to uphold the bill of rights are harassed by the federal government and placed on administrative leave.