There is disturbing video out of Lakeland, Florida where a police officer, Dustin Fetz, is under attack for ordering a woman to shake her bra during a search for drugs at a traffic stop. There appears no basis for the drug search, which are becoming more and more common on the roads as drivers find themselves accused of minor traffic violations but then subjected to full drug searches.
Zoe Brugger and her boyfriend on May 21 were pulled over while driving with a broken headlight. Fetz tells Brugger to pull up her shirt, pull her bra away from her body and shake it out so he could see if she was hiding any drugs.
He then asks permission to search her car. At first she agrees but then changes her answer to no. However, Fetz searches the car anyway without permission. No drugs were found on her or her boyfriend or in their car.
An investigation found that Fetz’s actions “went beyond the police actions that are permissible under law” and “violated the constitutional rights afforded to Zoe Brugger.” Notably, there was another officer present but there is no record of his informing anyone of the unconstitutional actions of his colleague. Officers are routinely excused from this duty to report such violations.
Notably, these pretext stops have been more common after the Supreme Court ruled that it would not question the motivation of such stops. Many civil libertarians condemned the Supreme Court in its decision in Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), where it refused to consider whether a stop was clearly based on a pretext in judging the constitutionality of the later search. We have seen abusive searches in such stops in past cases.
Notably, the police department is willing to question the bra shaking demand but have been silent on the search itself as well as the obvious use of a pretext for the stop.