New Mexico County Faces New Lawsuit Involving Abusive Cavity Searches By Police

220px-Police_car_with_emergency_lights_onWe previously discussed the horrific case out of New Mexico involving David Eckert involving a series of demeaning and invasive cavity searches of an innocent man stopped along a road. That abuse cost the city and county $1.8 million in a recent settlement. However, recent reports indicate that neither the sheriff nor this deputies were disciplined. Now there is a new lawsuit against Hidalgo County that suggests that officers are “cavity happy” in caring about such searches — a frightening prospect for citizens and a ruinous prospect for county taxpayers.

In the earlier case, David Eckert filed a federal case against  the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, police officers with the City of Deming and medical professionals at the Gila Regional Medical Center. Eckert was stopped on a minor traffic violation and accused by an officer of holding his buttocks.  What followed was a nightmare where officers and doctors subjected Eckert to outrageous abuse as they searched for drugs or contraband in his body. Before the police released him after finding no drugs, he would endure five manual penetrations; three forced defecations before witnesses; and an intrusive surgery under sedation.

The new lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque accuses the police of another traffic stop where Lori Ford, 54, and a friend (who was driving) were ordered out of the car for speeding. Police asked if they could search her car and Ford refused. Police then ordered a K-9 team to the location and seized the car to allow them to secure a search warrant — which required two hours. So you can refuse a search by police but you will have to wait for two hours. I previously wrote about how such refusals for consent can trigger hostile or abuse responses from police. In this case, Ford was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia — items police said were found in the car. However, those charges were shortly later dropped for failure of the police to produce the evidence. Wouldn’t that alone be a disciplinary offense for officers? Either they lied about the evidence or they lost evidence to a crime. Yet, again there is no indication of any discipline in Hidalgo county.

Four days later, Ford tried to retrieve the vehicle and says that officers stripped her naked and put her through a cavity search. Worse yet, she says that she was take to room with several male officers for searches of “anal and vaginal” cavities.

Lordsburg Police Chief Marcus Martinez has refused to comment about the controversy. One would think that a sheriff has an obligation to tell the public something about such a chilling account of abuse. Police often hold immediate press conferences to herald arrests and discuss the alleged crimes of citizens. Yet, they go into radio silence when officers are accused even though there is no pending criminal case. We saw recently how in Dallas (after police were caught in false statements) the Chief of Police responded by barring interviews with officers immediately after shootings to allow them to review the evidence and work on their accounts.

We have not seen the answer to the latest lawsuit but it obviously raised serious concerns over a pattern of abuse in this county. I would have expected a public outcry for answers from this sheriff on these latest allegations and disclosure of the record of any discipline for officers involving in these cases.

40 thoughts on “New Mexico County Faces New Lawsuit Involving Abusive Cavity Searches By Police”

  1. After reviewing the docket, the complaint is styled:

    Lori Ford v. City of Lordsburg, Joseph Flores, Luke De la Garza, Jason Gallegos, FNU Samuels, Hidalgo County Detention Center, Amanda Wolf

    It asks for punitive damages at various paragraphs in the complaint: “Plaintiff is entitled to recover punitive damages against the individual Defendants” (#96, #103, #109, #119, #130, #146).

    The full prayer for relief reads:

    WHEREFORE, Plaintiff seeks the following relief:

    I. Actual and compensatory damages sufficient to make Plaintiff whole.

    II. Punitive damages against Defendants sufficient to punish them and to deter further

    III. Attorneys’ fees, litigation expenses, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest as provided by
    law; and

    IV. Such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

    There is a lot more to the case than suggested.

    Mike A is on track that these LEO’s are out of control. The plaintiff brought a bondsman and a TV reporter with video crew when she went to pick up her vehicle. She was not even driving the vehicle at the time of the incident.

    A law review article discussing Monell v. Department of Social Serv-
    ices of the City of New York

    After re-examining the reasoning of Monroe [v. Pape] and the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1871,” the Court held: municipalities and other local government units are “persons” within the meaning of section 1983. In reaching its decision, the Court overruled Monroe to the extent that it had granted municipalities absolute immunity from suit under section 1983. Justice Brennan, writing for the majority, announced that municipalities may be sued under section 1983 for monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief when a constitutional violation is caused by the application of an official policy, regulation, ordinance or custom.” The Court further stated, however, that the doctrine of vicarious liability is inapplicable to section 1983 actions.” Thus, the Court held that municipalities cannot be liable under that section for the constitutional violations of municipal employees solely on the basis of respondent superior. 35 The Court observed that in the present controversy, the unconstitutional action clearly had resulted from the application of an official policy and, hence, the complaint stated a valid cause of action.

    (Boston College Law Review, Volume 21, Issue 2 Number 2, Article 7, 1-1-1980, emphasis added).

    The complaint alleges an official policy, regulation, ordinance or custom:

    142. The Defendants have ignored procedural and substantive Due Process requirements in an unlawful campaign to harass, punish and bully private citizens who they suspect of minor criminal activities despite a laughable absence of probable cause and evidence, and through fraudulent statements by their agents.

    143. The municipal Defendants have trained their officers and have implemented a policy of transforming ordinary traffic stops into invasive searches and seizures, flouting constitutional
    requirements related to private property and liberty interests.

    (id.). Thus, the complaint is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.

  2. I would reverse each claim that Bernard makes. If a city can allow just the cop to take a hit on the civil rights case judgment then the city is not responsible for what he is doing. The city can say(regarding their evil cop) that his mother made him what he is. Jerry Jeff Walker hit on this in his song Up Against The Wall Redneck Mothers. Regarding “false claims”. It is hard Bernard, to make a false claim of police civil rights violations in federal court. Butt, when they do the anal retentive thing the jury gets the message. And there the gloved finger up the uttBay is the message not the media. Police dogs wont even work under those circumstances when their cop so called Pals are abusing a woman like this.

    Liability which hits the taxpayers makes the taxpayer vote out the criminal element. Hidalgo has a warped if not criminal mindset in control. It is the voters collective fault. If they have to pay they will change their collective ways.

  3. I’ve worked for insurance that cover municipalities. In Wi. there is a mutual insurance company that covers many, if not most municipalities in the state. They are more tolerant than regular insurance companies. Prior to this Wi. mutual company being formed there was a company out of Arizona, I forget their name. They had a large share of the market. They were much tougher and would drop cities, counties, etc. if there were many claims. I worked a bit for this company. They defended a nasty claim against some cops in a smaller town. I investigated for their attorneys and it was obvious from the outset they were going to pay big. They settled quickly and dropped that town in a NY minute.

  4. “Four days later, Ford tried to retrieve the vehicle and says that officers stripped her naked and put her through a cavity search. Worse yet, she says that she was take to room with several male officers for searches of “anal and vaginal” cavities.”

    You’ve left out a detail or two. Yes, she was taken to a room with several males who tried to question her. When she refused they took her to the detention center where a female officer conducted the search.

    The idea is not to make sure the taxpayers get hit hard. Doing that will not stop these incidents from happening again and again. The employer can not ensure that such actions will not occur. The employee sees little downside as the union will often prevent him/her from being penalized.

    No the thing to do is to sue the person(s) who did the deed or allowed it to happen. ONLY those actually responsible.

    Good thing for the public: People will quit doing this sort of thing as they face severe penalties. Penalties that outweigh the gain from strip searching someone.

    Bad thing for the victim. The person won’t hit the lottery for being assaulted.

    Good thing for the taxpayers: The victim won’t hit the lottery for being assaulted.

    Good thing for the police: Since people won’t become multimillionaires there will be far less reason to make false claims.

  5. Someone needs to kidnap the Mayor for a half an hour and provide him with a battery acid enema. No cover charge anytime. The citizens, the elected officials and of course the uttBay pokers, all need to be hurt.

  6. The pattern of misconduct described here has nothing to do with unions or with the fact that Hidalgo County has a majority Hispanic population. It is instead a reflection of a sheriff’s department out of control. I will not be surprised if the DOJ becomes interested. This is a poor county to begin with, and a few of these cases could spell bankruptcy for the county. But if that’s what it takes to wake up the citizens, so be it.

    At the very least, there needs to be an independent probe, if you will, of the sheriff’s department. It should begin with the resignation of the current sheriff. I also have concerns about the judiciary in Hidalgo County. Were I a judge, I would have second thoughts about ever issuing a search warrant for this bunch.

  7. These instances look like something that the Federal Government should be involved in as a blatant violation of civl rights (not to mention common civility.) Why are they on the sidelines while police departments around the country (as you have ably reported) go on the rampage against those who they are theoretically sworn to “protect and serve?”

  8. Whatever it will cost to settle this case should be deducted from the police budget and the cops responsible for this misconduct should have to bear the costs of the case and the costs should be deducted from their salaries and pensions. This would cause these police thugs to think twice before engaging in this type of behavior. But if there are no consequences this type of misconduct will be repeated

  9. Dredd. It would be good to get the Complaint filed in the first case and now this one. One must sue the “state actor”, in this case the cop, his Chief probably, to get to the municipality. If there is a group in union to do this constitutional deprivation it might amount to a conspiracy under Section 1985. The fact that the individual cop state actor is hit with a judgment will trigger the payment by an insurance underwriter and/or the city or county. The State, if it is a state cop, will have sovereign immunity. Sometimes a county, in some states, will have sovereign immunity.

    Here, no chump insurance company will insure these schmucks in the future. If the plaintiff does not get an actual judgment against the municipality or county then the muni or county could maybe not reimburse coppo for the judgment against him. Not likely.

    What we want is for the taxpayers to pay big. We don’t want the police force to be able to afford to put these schmucks out on the roads. Speeders may go unchecked but better that than these anal rapists having at it with women and children. Title 42 United States Code Sections 1983 (suits against the igPays), Section 1985 (conspirators), Section 1988 (attorney fees). The young lawyers out there in that Mexican province ought to quit trying to make a living off of divorces and tune into the realm of Section 1983 litigation. Money is there to be had. A lot of lawyers out there in the American lexicon slept through con law class and never took that seminar on civil rights litigation.

  10. Citizens have lost their say, the election process having been hijacked by special interests. Follow the revolving door, from union dues, to campaigns, and then taxpayer funds back to unions, and you will find the woodshed rats. No one gets elected in these small, inbred counties, without belonging to the good old boys/girls club, first.

  11. Shouldn’t they be charged with sexual abuse as well as losing their jobs? This reminds me of the police raping incidents in India.

  12. Plaintiff’s lawyers must go after the officers personally, i.e. their wallets or purses. As long as daddy and mommie citizen are paying the bill these sadistic psychopaths will continue their depraved bullying.

  13. Sounds like they are searching for a sack lunch in mountain oysters…..way too long….

  14. I have no idea whether the county is insured or not, but if I were an underwriter, I would drop that county like a hot potato. One of the things I find mind-boggling is the mentality of the taxpayers and voters who actually cheer on and encourage this kind of “tough guy” facade of some sheriffs/police chiefs and their departments.

  15. Who puts up with that? You would have to beat me, taze me, handcuff me and knock me unconscious. The rules are set by precedent and when the rule of law no longer applies to them it no longer applies to us. When law has lost it’s moral standing and all that is left is the threat of punishment then it may as well not exist. Threat of punishment only goes so far; Men go to war every day and risk life and limb. If a couple of these thugs ended up in ditches it might get their attention.

  16. There will be cries of outrage from readers, but it is up to Hidalgo citizens to take action.

    If they don’t act to stop these abuses, a reasonable person would have to conclude that the Hidalgo electorate likes anal cavity searches.

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