Oakland Pays $4.6 Million for Public Strip Searches but Keeps Policy on the Books

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thirty-nine men who were strip-searched in public by police from 2002 to 2009 will collect $4.6 million from the City of Oakland, but their lawyer says the city still hasn’t come up with a policy to prevent future abuse.

The Oakland City Council voted this week to compensate the men after a federal judge ruled that the searches were unconstitutional and awarded $1 million in damages and attorney fees to two other men who sued.

Oakland has had a policy in 2004 that allowed police officer to search people if they had “reasonable suspicion” to believe the suspects were hiding something illegal, such as drugs, or would destroy it unless stopped.

The police pulled over Spencer Troy Lucas and Kirby Bradshaw, two black men who were driving in a car on a busy street in 2005, and made them drop their trousers and submit to a very public search as a gawkers gathered around them. The officers admitted pulling the car over for a traffic violation, but gave no reason for the searches. No contraband was found.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel found the law unconstitutional in 2008 and ruled in favor of the two men in 2009. The judge noted that the officers, who were laughing at the suspects and threatening to trump up charges against them, “deliberately, callously and oppressively violated plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights.”

After the case came to light, other victims stepped forward and more than half a dozen lawsuits were filed against the city. The settlement consolidated a number of the cases.

After announcement of the settlement by the city, Michael Haddad, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Oakland’s strip-search policies still aren’t in compliance with the law. “That part of the case remains open,” he said. “If they will not agree to a lawful strip-search policy, then we will have to take them back to court.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Oakland to Pay $4.6 Million in Strip Search Cases (by Matthew Artz, Oakland Tribune)

Strip Searches Cost Oakland $4.6 Million (by Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle)

Oakland Whacked for Illegal Strip Searches (by Nick McCann, Courthouse News Service)

Men Stripped by Oakland Cops in Public Win Lawsuit (by Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle)

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