Women Given Roadside Gynecological Exams by Texas State Troopers

Multiple highway patrol officers in Texas have been captured by dash cams doing ‘unconstitutional’ cavity searches on women’s genitals during traffic stops. Lawyers and civil rights advocates say the ‘mind-boggling’ searches are all too common.
Dash cam footage shows Ashley Dobbs, 24, with Texas state trooper Kelley Hellenson, who conducted body cavity searches on two women after a traffic stop for allegedly throwing cigarettes out of the car’s windows. No ticket was issued.
The first video was graphic enough. Two women, as shown in a Texas state trooper’s dash cam recording, are probed in their vaginas and rectums by a glove-wearing female officer after a routine traffic stop near Dallas.
A few days later, a second video surfaced. It was an eerily similar scenario, but this time the traffic stop was just outside Houston, and with different troopers. Two women, pulled over for allegedly speeding, are subjected to body cavity searches by a female officer summoned to the scene by a male trooper.
Unlike the earlier tape, this one had clear audio. Yells can be heard as the female trooper shoves her gloved finger inside one woman.
In both invasive incidents, the female troopers don’t change gloves between probes, according to the horrified victims.
Texas officials say the searches are unconstitutional. So do attorneys for the shaken women, who have filed federal lawsuits.
But lawyers and civil rights advocates tell the Daily News these cavity searches are really standard policy among the Texas Department of Public Safety’s state troopers, despite their illegality — not to mention that they were conducted on the side of the road in full view of passing motorists.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Dallas attorney Peter Schulte, a former Texas cop and prosecutor. “We would never put our hands anywhere near someone’s private parts,” he said of his time as a police officer in the city of McKinney. “When I saw that video I was shocked. I was a law enforcement officer for 16 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw, who oversees state troopers, denied an interview request from The News. In an earlier statements about the videotaped traffic stops, McCraw said his department “does not and will not tolerate any conduct that violates the U.S. and Texas constitutions, or DPS training or policy.”
So how did Texas troopers hundreds of miles apart get captured on dash cams conducting body cavity searches under nearly identical conditions?
“The fact that they both happened means there is some sort of (department) policy” advocating their use at traffic stops, Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project told the Daily News. “It’s such a prohibited practice. I don’t know why they think they can do this. It’s mind-boggling.”
Schulte said he doubts the policy is written, and that the practice may have spread from region to region, instead of from the top down.
“I think the Department of Public Safety is trying to figure out who in the world trained these troopers to think that this is OK,” Schulte said. “The law just doesn’t support that. It just doesn’t.”
There have also been two recent cavity-search controversies in other states: Last year in Florida a Citrus County woman, who’d recently been charged with driving under the influence, was pulled over by sheriff’s deputies while driving with her children. In a federal lawsuit, the woman claimed she was given a cavity search on the roadside; in Milwaukee, police were disciplined after 2012 reports surfaced that eight cops had conducted genital searches on arrested suspects without the legal authority to do so.
But those cases don’t approach the blatantness of the Texas incidents captured on video, which appear to illustrate a pattern, rather than isolated incidents.
“The odds of two female troopers conducting the same kind of search within six weeks of each other? Come on,” attorney Scott Palmer told The News. He recently settled a federal suit filed against the Department of Public Safety on behalf of clients Angel and Ashley Dobbs, the aunt and niece who were cavity-searched in the first dash cam video to go viral.
No ticket was issued following the lengthy traffic stop in July 2012, and no drugs were found. Angel Dobbs, 38, told The News that trooper David Farrell pulled her over on a Friday night, while she was driving to Oklahoma with her niece, Ashley, 24.
On the patrol car’s loudspeaker, he ordered her off the highway and onto a side road, she said.
He told the women they had thrown cigarette butts out of the car’s  windows. That wasn’t true, Dobbs said, but she didn’t argue. A long series of questions followed: Where were they going? Who were they going to see? Why were they going? Why was her niece with her?
Then he said he smelled marijuana. The women denied having any. He took the women’s IDs and went to his patrol car.

“He was back there for like 25 minutes,” Dobbs said. “My niece said ‘What’s taking him so long?’”

They were ordered out of the car and told to stand in a field by the roadside. Farrell told them he had called for a female office to come and search them, Dobbs said.

“Do you have anything in your socks? In your shoes? In your underwear?” Dobbs said she was asked. Then trooper Kelley Helleson showed up.

At this point Dobbs started protesting, saying the situation was ridiculous and that she had no drugs and had done nothing wrong. The female officer told her to “shut up and turn around,” Dobbs said.
She did as she was told. Then the trooper’s gloved hand went down her sweat pants in the back and in the front.
The trooper’s attorney has said there was no penetration and that both women submitted to the searches.
Dobbs disagrees: “She knows there was penetration. On both sides. Along the side of the road. She knows what she did.”
The dash cam video shows the aunt and niece alternately standing in front of Farrell’s patrol car, holding their arms out while Helleson pats their breasts and puts her hand down the front and back of their pants.
“They didn’t even search my socks or my shoes,” Dobbs said. “I just couldn’t fathom how you could search someone’s butt and their vagina, and not search their socks or shoes.”
Finally, and after Dobbs passed a field sobriety test, she was given a written warning for littering and told she could go.
“We were assaulted on the side of the road,” Dobbs said.
She complained to the troopers’ supervisor in August. In October, investigators from the Texas Rangers interviewed her about what happened. She was frustrated it had taken more than two months to get a response.
Then she got a lawyer. Her lawsuit was filed in December. “We had a press conference the next day,” Dobbs said. In January, the case was presented to a Dallas County grand jury. Helleson was later charged with two counts of sexual assault and was fired.
Farrell was indicted on one charge of theft, over a missing bottle of Vicodin from the aunt’s purse, and was suspended pending an internal investigation.
“Until the news got involved, nothing happened,” Dobbs said.
“My heart goes out those ladies,” in the Houston incident she continued. “I know how it feels.”
In late June, Dobbs and her attorneys settled their case for $184,000. Criminal trials against Helleson and Farrell are pending.
“Someone is telling (troopers) that this is a reasonable policy,” said attorney Palmer. “They’re just refusing to acknowledge this is a policy.
Across the state, no criminal charges have been filed in the Houston area traffic stop. But it began in much the same way.
Brandy Hamilton and Alexandria Randle were pulled over for speeding in Brazoria County by Texas state trooper Nathaniel Turner on Memorial Day in 2012. They were on their way home to Houston after spending the day at Surfside Beach on the Gulf of Mexico.
Turner said he smelled marijuana, then ordered Hamilton, the driver, out of the car. “Can I please put on my dress, because I have on a swimsuit,” she asks the trooper, according to the dash cam video.
“Don’t worry about that,” he says, “come on out here.”
By the side of Highway 288, Hamilton, wearing a bikini, and Randle, in shorts, are asked a series of questions about whether they have drugs on them or in the car. They say no, just some cigars.
“Is there anything in your bra or underwear?” Turner asks Hamilton. She says no.
Turner calls for a female officer to come and search the women.
Trooper Jennie Bui arrives, and asks for gloves because she doesn’t have any.
“She is about to get up close and personal with some womanly parts,” Turner tells Hamilton. “She is going to search you, I ain’t, because I ain’t about to get up close and personal with your woman areas.”
Hamilton, who is handcuffed, is bent over the patrol car’s passenger seat and probed by Bui.
“Do you know how violated I feel?” Hamilton pleads.
According to the women’s federal lawsuit, filed in June, Randle is then penetrated by Bui, who is wearing the same set of gloves from her search of Hamilton.
The video captures the sound of her screaming.
“They basically raped them on the side of the road,” said Houston attorney Allie Booker, who represents the women. They were part of a two-car caravan of family and friends that had spent the national holiday at the beach.
When the occupants of the other vehicle realized Hamilton and Randle were no longer behind them, the driver pulled a U-turn and backtracked. Seeing the women standing by the road with Texas troopers, the other car pulled in behind, the lawsuit said.
The video shows an officer asking for their IDs and telling them to stay in the car.
“The other family members were there,” Booker said. “They could hear the screams. They saw the gloves go on.”
The Department of Public Safety fired Bui on June 29. Turner was suspended pending an administrative review.
Texas Rangers investigators have reviewed the case, Booker said, and recommended three weeks ago that it be taken before a grand jury. Brazoria County prosecutors are reviewing those findings, she said.
“Texas is a very big state,” Booker said. “It alarms me that something that happened in north Texas also happened down here in the south.” Since the federal lawsuit became public, the attorney says her office has received about five phone calls from women saying they, too, had been subjected to cavity searches by state troopers.
Booker has also consulted with another lawyer who represents a woman who filed a similar body cavity search complaint with the DPS involving Trooper Bui.
“A lot of people are scared to come forward,” Booker said. “But people are contacting us. They say ‘hey, this happened to me, too.’’’

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