ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News investigates Georgia police strip searching women, looking for drugs on the side of the road.
Two Georgia women said their private body parts were exposed to strangers.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln found the U.S. Supreme Court says we have a right to privacy when it comes to strip searches. That is why they are usually done in the privacy of a jail.
“Lift your bra up and shake it out,” Brooklet Police Officer Dee Dee Estes said on police dash camera video.
“When you saw yourself in that video for the first time?” asked Lincoln.
“I cried,” said Cindy, a woman who asked us to use her first name only to protect her privacy.
Cindy said she will never forget what the officer did to her on the night of July 23, 2020.
“She’s going up and down and all around and the whole time I’m thinking this cannot be legal,” Cindy said.
Dash camera video shows the moment Cindy said Estes conducted a full body cavity search on her in plain view of the public after deputies suspected Cindy of having drugs during a traffic stop.
“And she’s putting her fingers like inside me in the front, and then like up the backside of me,” Cindy said.
Estes was called in to assist Bulloch County sheriff’s deputies for what was supposed to be a female patdown.
Instead, Estes searched inside Cindy’s private areas, making her expose her breasts in front of male officers and onlookers at a truck stop.
“Could you even believe what you were seeing?” Lincoln asked Larry Higgs, a truck driver who saw the strip search.
“No, ma’am,” Higgs said. “This lady stripped her down right in front of God and everybody.”
Channel 2 Action News found Cindy isn’t alone.
MORE STORIES FROM 2 INVESTIGATES:
- Metro families say their homes were undervalued because they are Black
- Recycling breakthrough could eliminate billions of tons of plastic from landfills
- Morehouse College leads the way in education in the metaverse
- Fired official says state agency uses app to skirt records law
- Atlanta wedding photo company that didn’t deliver to customers also didn’t pay, photographers say
A woman who asked us to use only her first name, Lisa, to protect her privacy, said a Griffin police officer strip searched her in August 2021 after a traffic stop.
“Can you lean forward for me?” Griffin Officer Alyssa Hanson said on body camera video as she searched Lisa’s breasts.
“That’s just invading people’s privacy,” Lisa said.
Hanson is seen on body camera exposing Lisa’s breasts in plain view of other male officers and two men who Lisa was riding with in the car.
“There was like people beside me that could see and an officer behind me and everything, that can see everything she was doing when she was like moving my clothes and pulling it down,” Lisa said.
“I don’t think anybody should be searched like that,” said Corey Moore, who was in the car with Lisa and witnessed the search.
One officer can be heard poking fun at Lisa’s exposed belly.
“Oh god, cover that belly up,” the officer said on the video.
Hanson suggested they go behind a car door for the rest of the search.
“I ain’t got nothing. I promise you that,” Lisa said on the body camera video.
“Well, that’s why I got to look,” Hanson said while pulling out Lisa’s pants, exposing her private parts.
Attorney Mark Bullman represents both women and said strip searches should be done in private.
“Doing it in public is, I mean, the law is clear, and it has been for a very long time that you don’t do that,” Bullman said.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Schmerber v. California in 1966 “Under Fourth Amendment searches involving intrusions beyond the body’s surface on mere chance that desired evidence might be obtained are forbidden.”
Bullman said the searches didn’t have to happen on the side of the road.
“It can be done in a medical facility. It can be done in a jail. It can be done just more in private, not in a parking lot, in a truck stop in front of a bunch of people,” Bullman said.
In both cases Bullman said neither Brooklet nor Griffin police departments investigated the officers’ actions.
Estes was eventually fired for an unrelated incident.
Hanson is still on the force in Griffin.
“Hopefully, you know, it stops, and it don’t happen again to no one else,” Lisa said.
The officer found no drugs on Lisa. Cindy had an old baggie with some meth residue in her short’s pocket that was not found as a result of the body cavity search.
Channel 2 Action News looked into what can be done to hold officers accountable.
Cindy filed a civil lawsuit, and Lisa plans to file one in the near future.
Griffin and Brooklet police and former officer Estes declined our request for comment--- but in court filings Estes claims she “acted in good faith.”
Lincoln contacted Georgia POST, the agency that can revoke the certification of police officers. It now is looking into both of these cases.
The Spalding County District Attorney’s Office said it is reviewing Lisa’s search.
IN OTHER NEWS:
©2022 Cox Media Group