Lawsuit claims APD leaders encouraged strip searches

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ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has obtained new documents claiming Atlanta Police Department leaders condoned, even encouraged, elite officers to conduct illegal public strip searches on suspects.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant obtained sworn statements given by two former officers of APD's disbanded Red Dog unit that were filed in federal court last week.

They're part of a big stack of new documents that the lawyer for one alleged victim said backs up his clients' claims.

"They just thought they could get away with it," Attorney Mark Bullman said.

Bullman is lead council on a federal case filed by Rickey Sampson, claiming Red Dog officers publicly strip-searched him looking for drugs back in 2010.

"They have flat denied that there was ever a problem with a pattern of practice by Red Dog officers of strip searching and humiliating people over the years," Bullman said.

But so far, the city has spent more than $2.5 million of taxpayer money to litigate and settle similar suits over illegal strip-searches.

"Either they were telling the truth that there is a problem and paid millions of dollars because of it, or they paid millions of dollars for a problem that did not exist," Bullman said.

And while APD has never officially admitted to any practice or policy to strip-search suspects without probable cause, hundreds of pages of new court filings in the Sampson case include sworn statements by two officers named as defendants.

Cayenne Mayes wrote: "I was trained and instructed to search for any 'pockets' or 'special pockets' that might be located in the subject's pants or in their underwear."

"What I and others did was reflected I our reports and known to supervisors… only when people started filing complaints…did anyone in command/administration tell us we should stop these strip-searches," Officer Stalone Davis swore in the statements.

Monday, APD sent Diamant a statement saying in part, "Mr. Sampson's lawsuit has no merit, and the allegations of former APD officers relating to the lawsuit are baseless."

The department said since the Red Dog unit was disbanded, it has ramped up training on Fourth Amendment issues for all its officers.

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