SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A federal judge has ruled that Oakland police unlawfully strip-searched two men in public in 2005 and ordered the city to pay them a total of at least $200,000 in damages.
At the end of a non-jury trial on Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said Officers Ingo Mayer and D’ Vour Thurston had no probable cause to stop Kirby Bradshaw and Spencer Lucas, who were in a car with a third man at 32nd Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way at about 8 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2005.
Patel said there was no reasonable cause that the men had committed a traffic violation or any other violation of law, the officers hadn’t observed any illegal conduct and had no reasonable basis for believing that any of the occupants were on parole.
Noting that Bradshaw, Lucas and the third man were black, Patel said, “Three black men in a moving vehicle does not create reasonable suspicion.”
Mayer, who is white, and Thurston, who is black, forced Bradshaw and Lucas to stand naked for five to seven minutes on a busy street while the officers searched them, Patel said in her ruling.
Bradshaw and Lucas will receive $100,000 each in damages. Patel will decide at a later date whether they should also receive punitive damages.
Attorneys John Burris and Michael Haddad filed a lawsuit against Oakland police in March 2007 on behalf of seven black men who alleged that their civil rights were violated by officers who subjected them to humiliating strip searches in public. The suit was later expanded to include a total of 44 plaintiffs.
Patel ruled that three of the other plaintiffs hadn’t proved their cases and dismissed their suits, but the cases for the remaining 39 plaintiffs are still pending.
Burris said Friday that he thinks Patel’s ruling is “terrific” because “requiring men to pull their pants down in public is the ultimate in humiliation.”
He said, “The practice of public strip-searching is the worst form of policing and only inflames the community against the police.”
Burris said, “Public strip-searching is cruel and unusual punishment and should be stopped immediately.”
Oakland police spokeswoman Holly Joshi said she can’t comment on the specifics of the case.
But Joshi said the Police Department’s policy discourages public strip searches and said officers should take reasonable steps to avoid publicly embarrassing people or invading their privacy.
However, Joshi said it’s appropriate for officers to strip search suspects in public if they have probable cause to believe that suspects are hiding a gun or other weapon in their undergarments.
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