07/15/2013

Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief10-43: Be Advised...
with Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief

Body-cavity searches and common sense: No misdemeanor is worth losing your job

It’s pretty unlikely that there’s even one jurisdiction in America in which a roadside body-cavity search falls within agency policy

As we reported last week, two women who had been stopped for speeding and subsequently subjected to roadside body-cavity searches have filed a federal lawsuit against the troopers involved. 

The entire traffic stop of Brandy Hamilton and Alexandria Randle was recorded on dash-cam video, and suffice it to say the video doesn’t paint Texas DPS Troopers Nathaniel Turner and Jennie Bui in a very positive light. 

During the stop, Trooper Turner perceived the presence of marijuana in the car, and upon finding a small amount, called upon Jennie Bui to assist in search of the two subjects who were clothed in nothing but their bikini swimwear. 

That’s when things went sideways. 

Trooper Bui has already been fired, and Trooper Turner has been suspended pending an internal investigation. The tea leaves I’m reading aren’t completely clear on his future with Texas DPS, but it’s a very safe prediction that there will be a significant payout to these women. 

Officers are covered by applicable U.S. Supreme Court case law — even if there’s not probable cause for an arrest, all you need is reasonable suspicion for a Terry pat down. 

For a Terry pat down — not a body-cavity search. 

To my knowledge — and I encourage correction in the comments below if I’m wrong — there isn’t a jurisdiction in America in which a roadside body-cavity search falls within agency policy, including Texas DPS. 

DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a written statement that the department “does not and will not tolerate any conduct that violates the U.S. and Texas constitutions or DPS training or policy.”

As one PoliceOne Member commented, “No misdemeanor is worth losing your job over. Plus you should know your policy well enough to know that this was not okay.”

Another Member added the following tip: “You conducted the stop, got the PC, searched and found a small amount of marijuana in the vehicle. Now make your arrest, transport to jail, let the jailers discover the weed there, then file on her for POM in a correctional facility (felony). And if the second amount is not found, so what, you already got your ‘arrest, traffic, impound, and citation stat’ for the day... MOVE ON to the next stop and don't get sued!”

Look, stowing stuff in body cavities is not new. Both male and female criminals use body-cavity concealment for all manner of contraband — hell, this woman concealed a loaded, five-shot, .22 caliber revolver in her vagina. But agency policy almost assuredly dictates that a body-cavity search be done under very specific guidelines.

There’s no substitute for common sense, so if you have to ask yourself, “Is this a good idea?” you may also want to seek a second opinion. 

Maybe two.

Stay safe out there, my friends. 

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 800 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

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