What’s with Texas? I mean, really. What’s with a state that seems lost in the creaky, archaic past when women were chattel, men were masters, and police could cavity search women in bikinis with impunity?
Yet that last one – cavity-searching women in bikinis – is about as contemporary as the date of May 28, 2012, Memorial Day of last year, when state trooper Nathaniel Turner stopped two African-American women returning from Surfside beach in Brazoria County, Texas for speeding. Likely a routine stop on Highway 288, but what followed was anything but routine; the reason it is in the news a little over a year later is that the women have decided to file a federal lawsuit against the officers involved.
With the dash-cam on the trooper’s car capturing every salacious moment of the stop, the event unfolded as follows:
Officer Turner approached the car in which Brandy Hamilton and Alexandria Randle were traveling. Hamilton is heard on the tape asking Turner if she can put her dress on, as she was clad only in a bikini, and he tells her not to worry about it and to step out of the car. He asks if they have anything illegal in the car after claiming to smell marijuana and Hamilton answers “no.” He then pulls Randle out of the car and radios a female trooper. FromKHOU.Houston 7.3.13:
“One of them has got her zipper open on her pants of her daisy dukes shorts — whatever they are,” he said.
Brandy Hamilton was the first to be searched. The exchange was captured on camera:
“Are you serious,” Hamilton asked the trooper.
“If you hid something in there, we’re going to find it,” said the trooper.
“You’re going to go up my private parts,” Hamilton said.
“Yes ma’am,” she said.
Nothing was found on either woman and they claim gloves weren’t changed between searches.
From KHOU.Houston 7.4.13:
“It’s been traumatizing,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a very horrific situation to me.” [... ]
“She just came right over and there was no switch out of anything — which is disgusting,” Randle said.
So the female officer not only cavity searched both women without cause, she cavity searched them without changing gloves. Disgusting, likely unhealthy, and deeply, profoundly inappropriate. That a female officer participated in this appalling violation speaks volumes about… what? Texas female officers? Texas in general? Whatever it is, it is beyond an “embarrassing experience,” as one of the women called it; it is close to “traumatizing” and “horrific”… akin to digital rape (which recently landed a few boys in prison in Steubenville).
As for the officers in Texas? The female trooper, Jennie Bui, has been fired. Turner, the male officer, has only been suspended pending an internal investigation, leading one to ask why the gender inequitability in that consequence? (Remember, it’s Texas.) Hamilton and Randle’s federal lawsuit has been filed against both Turner and Bui, as well as the Brazoria County Sheriffs Department, Sheriff Charles Wagner and deputy Aaron Kindred. Clearly they’re not taking this sitting down, which they shouldn’t.
Though Randle and Hamilton are both African-Americans, no one playing the “race card.” However, their attorney, Allie Booker, is mystified as to the rationale for a cavity search in the circumstances that unfolded.
“If you claim they were in the car doing something they had no business, and you claim you had the butt end of what they were doing, why do you need to do a cavity search,” Booker said.
KHOU 11 News in Houston brought in their legal analyst, Gerald Treece, to look at the video. His response:
“I think it’s the violation of the 4th amendment to do these type of body cavity searches,” said Treece. “The thing that’s offensive about this is the fact that it’s the most intrusive type of search which is a body cavity search and the question is for what.”
“For what” is the question. Speeding? Despite the fact that it’s been reported that nothing was found in the car, the Trooper Turner claims they did find a “small amount of marijuana,” a charge one of the women is still dealing with in court. But even that cannot justify a cavity search. In fact, the more egregious issue, the physical violation of the two women, is likely to trump any minor grass charges even if there was marijuana present.
As for the response from the officers involved, the Brazoria Sheriffs office has had nothing to say, but the DPS office did make a comment:
“The department does not and will not tolerate any conduct that violates the U.S. and Texas constitutions, or DPS training or policy,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw.
Given that no sane person could possibly come up with reasonable justification for a police officer to jam her fingers into the vaginas of two women who’ve done nothing worse than drive too fast and potentially have a “small amount” of pot in their car, this sane person hopes Brandy Hamilton and Alexandria Randle get a hefty settlement as some small measure of an apology that could not be big enough.