We previously discussed the lawsuit over what was described as a roadside cavity search conducted on two women by a Texas police officer in search of marijuana possession. The Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Kelly Helleson has now been suspended with pay as the police investigate the matter, which was caught on videotape. What I fail to understand is why, once again, nothing happened until the public rose up in anger over the absurd actions of the police. Moreover, there is no mention of the first officer who used the fact that Angel Hobbs, 38, had thrown a cigarette butt out of her window to interrogate the two women on possible pot use and then searched their car.
Hobbs and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley Hobbs, were the subject of the intrusive search by Helleson while the other officer was present. However, it took a lawsuit and national media to get the police to respond. Why? Clearly, the women had complained earlier and there was a videotape available. Moreover, it is only the strip searches not the pretext stop and overreaction by both officers that appear the focus of the investigation. Take the strip searches out of the equation for a second. Is it appropriate for a Texas officer to use a pretext to trigger this type of roadside interrogation and search. Both women were told to get out of the car and then the officer simply declared that he smelled pot to justify a search of the vehicle. How is that different in substance from the types of searches that we read about in abusive countries or police states? Police can look for anything that might result in an arrest after declaring that they smell pot. None was found in the car. I also doubt that this was the first time that such a search occurred given the statement of the officers that it is routine.