In two separate incidents hundreds of miles apart, Texas state troopers have conducted body cavity searches on women pulled over for traffic stops on minor infractions in full view of passing motorists. The repeated incidents mean that the uncomfortable, invasive searches are some sort of department policy, civil rights advocates now say.
Both incidents were recorded by the officers dashboard cameras. In both, male officers summon a female officer to conduct the probes. In one incident, a female officer inserts her finger into both the vagina and rectum of the victims without changing gloves.
In the second recorded incident, Brandy Hamilton, 27, and Alexandria Randle, 26, were pulled over outside of Dallas on their way home from a Memorial Day celebration in 2012. Officers ticketed them for possession of drug paraphernalia though no drugs were found. Both women were still wearing the bikinis they had worn to the celebration and were not allowed to put on covering garments before exiting their vehicle.
Claiming to smell marijuana, the officers ordered the body cavity search.
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“The male officer, his words verbatim were, ‘We’re gonna get familiar with your womanly parts,” Hamilton later said.
On video of the incident, the two women can be heard yelling with discomfort as the female officer inserts her finger into their genitalia. The officer wore the same glove to search both women.
In the first incident, female officer Kelly Helleson was charged with sexual assault after a search of Angel Dobbs, 38, and her niece, Ashley Dobbs, 24. According to Angel Dobbs, Helleson inserted a finger into her vagina and rectum, but never checked other areas such as her socks. On the video, Helleson can also be seen patting Dobb’s directly on her breasts.
The two victims sued and settled for $185,000 in June of this year.
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“The fact that they both happened means there is some sort of [department] policy,” said Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project to the New York Daily News.
The lawyer for Randle and Hamilton, Allie R. Booker, says that a third cavity search case exists that has not yet been made public.