The Texas Department of Public Safety, already well-known for law enforcement slam dunks like shooting cars from helicopters and never finding the person who burned down Rick Perry's house, now faces criticism and lawsuits over traffic stops from women who say state troopers illegally probed their nether regions.
And by probed, I really do mean probed. The two traffic stops in question — which happened last summer near Houston and Dallas but recently became national news — each involve women who say that DPS troopers searched their rectums and vaginas by the side of the road.
According to the New York Daily News, the first stop happened in July 2012 as a woman and her niece were driving to Oklahoma. A state trooper pulled them over because he said he saw them throw cigarette butts out the window, and then said he smelled marijuana. This led him to summon a female trooper to the scene who searched the women in what they said was a penetrative manner. After passing a sobriety test, they were allowed to go without a citation.
That woman filed a lawsuit in December, which was settled in late June for $184,000. In a rare turn of events, criminal charges were filed against the two troopers involved in the stop. Their trials are pending.
The second incident happened on Memorial Day 2012 when two women were pulled over for speeding in Brazoria County near Houston. Once again, a trooper said he smelled marijuana, and summoned a female trooper to search the pair. The search can be seen on the video above. From the Daily News story:
“She is about to get up close and personal with some womanly parts,” Turner tells Hamilton. “She is going to search you, I ain’t, because I ain’t about to get up close and personal with your woman areas.”
DPS fired the female trooper who searched the two, and the male trooper who pulled them over has been suspended. The women in that search have since filed a federal lawsuit, which became public recently. Other women have come forward to say similar things happened to them.
Although this is in no way meant to blame the victims of police assault, it serves as another example of why you should always refuse to let cops search your vehicle.
State officials contend that these kinds of searches are not permitted in DPS policy, and they recognize that they are in fact unconstitutional. But critics claim the widespread frequency with which they happen says otherwise.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Dallas attorney Peter Schulte, a former Texas cop and prosecutor. “We would never put our hands anywhere near someone’s private parts,” he said of his time as a police officer in the city of McKinney. “When I saw that video I was shocked. I was a law enforcement officer for 16 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
[...] “The fact that they both happened means there is some sort of (department) policy” advocating their use at traffic stops, 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.”