Drivers in the Atlanta area are speaking out about unnecessary strip searches conducted by Georgia police officers that some say have left them feeling embarrassed and violated.
According to a special report conducted by Channel 2 Action News, several motorists have been subjected to strip searches for violating minor traffic laws. Some of the motorists are pursuing legal action against the officers for what one attorney believes is an abuse of power.
“That’s a general strip-search, which you’re not allowed to do,” said attorney Mark Bullman. “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.”
Bullman is representing Terry Phillips, who was searched by the Forest Park Police Department after his wife was pulled over for driving with a suspended registration.
“He was like, ‘Just unbuckle all your clothes,’ and put his hands down inside my pants,” said Phillips.
Phillips consented to the initial frisk, but he voiced his displeasure during the search when he realized just how intrusive the search was becoming. According to the dashboard camera, Phillips can be heard saying, “That’s illegal, man, you can’t do that. You can’t do that,” to the officer.
Bullman’s attorney echoed Phillips’ sentiment that he was violated.
“If you pat the outside of someone’s pants you can clearly identify whether or not somebody has a firearm or something of that nature,” Bullman said. “You can’t be moving people’s clothing and opening them, particularly in situations where there’s not been a custodial arrest.”
Complaints against other nearby departments show that other officers aren’t shy about taking a hands-on approach when it comes to checking for weapons during routine traffic stops. According to the Channel 2 Action News investigation, there have been numerous related incidents, including:
- Alphonzo Eleby was frisked for drugs with his belt unbuckled and underwear exposed after a Dekalb officer said he saw Eleby throw something on the ground at a gas station. Eleby said the officer went inside his underwear and into his genital area during the search. Surveillance cameras showed that Eleby’s hands did not move, but that it appears the officer through something on the ground. Eleby was charged with possession of marijuana, but the charge was later dropped after the video surfaced. The officer was placed on restrictive duty.
- Camishi Jones said a Cook County officer was “touching my breast, up in my vagina,” and “actually stuck his hand up between my buttocks” during a traffic stop for driving her truck in the left lane. “I felt that I was being molested with his hands,” said Jones.
- Ben Kassars said he was riding in the passenger seat when his roommate was pulled over on a tip that there were drugs in the vehicle. Kassars was forced to unbuckle his belt and unzip his pants for the search, which turned up nothing. “I felt defenseless. I felt like there was nothing I could do about it,” said Kassars.
All of the above parties are seeking legal action against their local law enforcement agencies.
Attorney Mel Welch comments
There is a comfort level among the judiciary with infringements upon Constitutional protections by law enforcement. Just this week in a DUI case, a retired judge in Rice County was very comfortable ruling that police were alright to enter a person’s curtilage and home without a warrant based on probable cause to believe the individual drove a motor vehicle while under the influence 45 minutes previously.
A large failing of the systems is the prosecution’s failure to referee law enforcement behavior. Instead of “pursuing justice,” as prosecutor’s swear to do, they confidently charge these cases and rely upon a judiciary comfort with law enforcement’s practice of imperiously violating a person’s constitutional rights. The resulting litigation creates the need to spend thousands of dollars in defense of one’s rights and freedoms, and subjects that person to unnecessary and unfamiliar harassment with threatening consequences.
It is an outrage and it is unsurprising that a concomitant drop in confidence in our political and legal systems is occurring as we see these tyrannical acts done by our loving protectorate.
Related source: WSB TV