Documents may show continuing strip searches by APD

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

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ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has uncovered documents lawyers said show Atlanta police officers may still be conducting illegal strip searches on suspects.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant discovered the new claims that come in the middle of another controversial case.

"The facts are very straightforward in this case," attorney Mark Bullman said.

The federal lawsuit filed by Rickey Sampson claims officers in the Atlanta Police Department's controversial, and now disbanded, Red Dog unit illegally and publicly strip-searched him looking for drugs in 2010.

Diamant just got copies of a recent judge's order holding four of the five officers named in the suit liable.

"It's a big deal because the folks have not made any affirmative statement that these facts that we have alleged did not occur," Bullman said.

Deputy City Attorney Eric Richardson said the city is standing its ground in the Sampson case -- no settlement -- despite sworn statements from several Red Dog officers about how Sampson's search and others went down

"We believe these allegations have no merit. We don't think the incident happened. The allegations are false," Richardson said.

So far, the city has spent more than two million taxpayer dollars to settle similar suits and last March agreed in court to follow pages of strict new rules for strip searches including only doing them, "…at a jail, correctional, or detention facility after transport."

But Diamant uncovered an October incident report in which an APD officer wrote she took a drug suspect to an area "not in public view and searched his pants."

"Right after a federal judge said you can't do it anymore and it's not just he told them, they agreed it needed to be done. They agreed it was not right," Bullman said.

Still, Richardson maintains the city has ramped up training on proper search procedures to keep officers from going too far.

"If we have any information that that happens, it will be investigated and officers will be disciplined appropriately," Richardson told Diamant.

A statement from the Atlanta Police Department said, "We have referred that arrest to our Office of Professional Standards so it can review the officer's actions to determine if they were in compliance with our policies and procedures."

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