Monday, November 11, 2013

New Mexico Anal Cavity Search and Police Misconduct

        Police misconduct is unfortunately more common than most people understand it to be.  Last week the story about the police officer who ordered the anal cavity searching drew a lot of attention.  
         For those of you who are unaware of the story, a New Mexico man named David Eckert was stopped for running a stop sign.*  After he got out, the officer claimed that Eckert looked to be “clenching” his buttocks.  Because of this, the officer drove Eckert to a nearby hospital and asked a doctor to perform an anal cavity search.  The doctor refused on the grounds that it was unethical.  The police officer then drove Eckert to a neighboring county hospital and found another doctor who was willing to perform the search.  Here’s what happened next:
1.       According to Eckert’s abdominal area was X-rayed; no narcotics were found.
2.      Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3.      Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4.      Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
5.      Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
6.      Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
7.      Doctors then X-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
8.      Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.

            After this story surfaced, I heard a lot of people call this sort of police activity “Shocking” and “Unbelievable.”  I don’t find it to be either of those things.  Sure, the facts of the New Mexico case are a little out there because we’re talking about a repeated cavity search.  But the core issues, police misconduct and cover-up, are not unusual.
            And don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of great cops out there.  A lot.  There are many police officers who work their butts off at a very dangerous job for too little pay, and they never engage in misconduct like unlawful arrests, police brutality, or other violations of citizens’ Constitutional Rights.
            The problem is when the bad deeds of the rotten apples go unpunished.  Then police misconduct spreads like a virus.
            In Louisville, police misconduct is not unbelievable.  It’s not shocking.  Unfortunately it isn’t even “uncommon.”  I’ll give you a few examples of some cases I’m working on.

            “Barry” – Even the police agree that when Barry was walking down the street, he was doing nothing illegal.  He was just walking to his mom’s house one night with a backpack on.  The police pulled up and spotlighted him, stopping him on the sidewalk because he “matched a description.”  The problem with that description is that the only description the police are trying to rely on was a generic description of an average black male with dark clothing who had dreadlocks.  And Barry did not have dreadlocks.
            But the police continued to detain Barry, demanding to search his backpack (which contained nothing illegal), frisk searching him for weapons (he had none), and eventually throwing him to the ground after he objected to the frisk search.  They busted one of his teeth out when they threw him to the concrete.
            Barry’s story checks out because he just so happened to be recording the incident on a digital recorder.  By the way, he had the recorder because he had been stopped NINE times in the past year for no reason.  Just for walking down the street.

“Tommy” – Tommy was hanging out with his cousin in the backyard of his cousin’s house.  They were just standing around, talking.  A police officer approached and, flashing the light in their eyes, walked into the yard and told them he would have to search them.
Tommy was wearing a cast following a recent surgical procedure on one of his arms.  He raised his hands the best he could and advised the approaching officer that he had both a handgun and a CCDW license for the weapon in his back pocket. After removing the handgun and license from his pocket, the officer handcuffed Tommy’s free arm to his belt loop and called a second officer to the scene. While Tommy was in handcuffs, one of the officers drew his service revolver and pointed it at Tommy.  When Tommy asked the officer not to point the gun at him, the officer replied, “I’m not fucking pointing it at you.  Shut your fucking mouth.”        Tommy said “that’s uncalled for, man” - at which time the officer slammed Tommy’s head against the police cruiser.  The cop took him to the ground, injuring his knee (needing surgery after the fact), while another placed his knee on the back of Tommy’s neck. The officers then repeatedly punched him in the side, repeatedly slammed the arm that was in a cast against the pavement, and tore a lock of hair from Tommy’s head.
            Toward the end of the encounter, the officers advised Tommy that they had been searching for burglary suspects in the vicinity.  The officers took Tommy and showed him to the burglary victims, who were seated in a nearby police cruiser.  They confirmed that Tommy was not involved in the burglary of their home.
            I wish I could say that those 2 cases were the only police misconduct cases I had right now.  But that’s just the beginning.  And the worst thing about these cases is that the police who engage in this behavior never admit to any wrongdoing – often the police departments they work for stand behind them and stick up for the misconduct.  They protect their own.
            Not all of it is driven by racism, but a lot of it is.   

            When police misconduct is allowed, corruption is invited.

            I don’t really have a follow up, cathartic ending to this story.  Hopefully we’ll get some legitimate justice on some of these cases soon, and I’ll keep you posted.  Until then, I just hope to shed some light on the problem.  Maybe next time something like this hits the news, people won’t be so “shocked.”

*All of the info I received on the New Mexico case was from the Huffington Post, so if I got some details wrong, sue them.  Not me.

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