Is ACLU lawsuit against D.C. cops a red herring? ‘A
n officer told us to drop our pants,” Shay Horse said. “An officer went down the row telling each of us not to flinch as he grabbed our balls and yanked on them, and then stuck his finger up each of our anuses and wiggled it around. I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment.”
Mr. Horse painted that picture Wednesday at the National Press Club, where he stood alongside the D.C. ACLU to announce that a lawsuit had been filed against the D.C. government for unlawful actions that the police took during Inauguration Day’s violence and chaos. Mr. Horse is named as a plaintiff, and three others also are suing.
Law enforcement mustn’t be a red herring.
Body and cavity searches of criminal suspects by law enforcers are part and parcel to ensuring public safety in all public safety settings, yes?
The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit on Mr. Horse’s behalf, doesn’t always agree.
In 2012, for instance, the ACLU urged the Michigan Department of Corrections to abandon it practice of conducting strip searches and body searches of female prisoners. The ACLU argued that the searches were “degrading,” could easily re-traumatize prisoners who had been sexually abused and were unsanitary because the prisoners had to use their own hands to prep for the vaginal search.
Michigan corrections changed its search policy. (Tsk, tsk.)
The ACLU also argued, among other things, that such searches served “no security purposes.”
Searching suspects and inmates for weapons, drugs and other contraband is a reasonable given — even when you consider what happens on a scale smaller than a state corrections facility.
The sheriff of Franklin County, along Florida’s panhandle, recently hauled in a bundle of contraband — including cellphones, methamphetamine, marijuana, oxycodone, tobacco products, snuff and cocaine. The county’s population numbers only 11,549, making it the third smallest in the Sunshine State.
(Interestingly enough, Michigan corrections authorities had to probe an inmate’s fatal overdose this year, trying to find out how the prisoner got his hands on suboxone, a powerful synthetic opiate.)
Returning to the nation’s capital, public safety authorities say they are tightening security at the D.C. Jail following the drug overdoses of two inmates.
The District’s medical examiner ruled on Tuesday that Kenneth Parker and Eric Terrell, inmates jailed on violent crime charges, died of opioid overdoses. Both men were found dead in their jail cells. Both died from illicit narcotics.
Corrections Director Quincy Booth says his agency is trying to tighten its grip on contraband smugglers, but there’s a huge roadblock in the way: Body cavity searchers are illegal. The D.C. law must be changed. Said Mr. Horse of D.C. cops at Wednesday’s press conference: “They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who were supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. It felt like they were trying to break me and the others. Break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment. I was in police custody for about 33 hours. My anus was still sore when I was released.”
Mr. Horse and his co-plaintiffs might have a considerable legal gripe, and we’ll have to see what a judge and jury have to say about that.
Still, we must not be distracted. Law enforcers have a sworn duty to serve and to protect — and that duty includes protecting themselves from unchecked contraband, as well as protecting the arrested and the suspected.