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Monday, October 24, 2016

Here is a challenge for you. Reconcile the following:

In 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified, including the Fourth Amendment, guaranteeing “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

In 2015, a 21-year-old woman named Charnesia Corley says she underwent a public body-cavity search for drugs at a gas station in Texas.

Explain, if you can, how the former and the latter can be simultaneously true.

According to Corley, a sheriff’s deputy in Harris County — Houston is the county seat — pulled her over for a traffic violation in June. Claiming he smelled marijuana, he searched the car, then called a female deputy to search Corley. She says the woman told her to pull her pants down. Corley, who was handcuffed, says she told the deputy she couldn’t and protested that she was wearing no panties. Whereupon, according to Corley, the deputy pulled the pants down herself and began her search.

Corley told CNN she “popped up” when she felt the woman’s fingers inside her and protested. Corley says the deputy replied: “I can do what I want to do, because this is a narcotics search.” Another female deputy was summoned. Corley found herself on the ground with, she says, both women on top of her. And if you were looking for the textbook definition of an “unreasonable” search, surely you could not find a better one than a bare-bottomed woman held down on the pavement in full public view while her vagina is forcibly probed for drugs.

The Harris County Sheriff has declined comment, citing an “ongoing internal affairs investigation” — and a possible civil suit. According to at least some reports, deputies did find marijuana — 0.02 ounces — though it is unclear where. The Associated Press reports that charges against Corley — drug possession and resisting arrest –were dropped last week.

Apparently, none of this is unique. The Washington Post tells us there have been similar cases in Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta, and in Citrus County and Coral Springs, Florida. The victims have been both male and female.

And so, we reap the fruit of our own short-sightedness. In their hysteria over drugs and sanguine surety that only guilty people need worry about their rights, too many of us have watched with acquiescence the steady erosion of the freedoms that stand between us and a police state. The government arrogates unto itself the power to seize a person’s money without even bringing charges, the Supreme Court gives police unfettered power to stop cars on any pretext in order to hunt for drugs, police stop and frisk — and cuff and beat — without probable cause, and some of us shrug and say, so what?

Well, this is what: Charnesia Corley ends up humiliated and sexually assaulted, spread-eagle on the ground with our collective fingers up her individual private parts. Apparently, some of us find that less terrifying than 0.02 ounces of pot.

It is past time those somnambulant people woke up to what is happening here, to what is being stolen. Drugs are a danger, yes. But in response to that danger, we have accorded police too much deference, leeway and power. That observation is not about disrespecting them, but requiring that they respect us, the people they work for.

There is, not to put too fine a point on it, zero respect in a sheriff’s deputy publicly poking her fingers into another woman’s vagina — on suspicion, mind you, of marijuana possession. How can you reconcile that with the Fourth Amendment? You can’t.

“I can do what I want to do.” So the deputy reportedly told Corley. And that should scare you.

Because it wasn’t just arrogant. It was also, apparently, correct.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected])

Photo: Thomas Hawk

  • Daniel Jones

    Until this kind of article is fantasy, we live in the Police States of Shut Your Mouth.
    This is a disgrace.

  • FireBaron

    This also extends to demands to surrender cell phones, tablets, etc. all without a warrant, all on “suspicion”. Can you imagine what would happen if the person being stopped was an undercover federal agent using a government provided phone? There would probably be enough “evidence” on that phone to lock up the agent for life and throw away the key, if it were up to the local cops.
    So, if you are being searched, you should ask the following questions:
    1. Am I under arrest? If the answer is “no” thank the police for their time and ask to see a search warrant while waiting for them. If the answer is yes, still ask to see the warrant and demand to have your lawyer present for the search.
    2. If they announce that you are under arrest without your asking, ask them what the charges are, ask to see any search warrant, and demand the presence of your lawyer for any further search and questioning.
    In either case, be respectful. Politely ask the names and badge numbers of the officers and note them for future reference. When they know you are asking exactly who they are, they will be significantly more respectful.
    One other thing – do NOT use the lines “Do you know who I am?” That doesn’t work. Nor does the line, “I have friends…”

    • oldlion

      Have you been paying attention? You talk to some cops like that and you will be roughed up, thrown to the ground and arrested for resistance. Especially if you are black. Be afraid, be very afraid. They don’t need no stinkin warrant.

    • Allan Richardson

      Actually, “do you know who I am” WORKS if they recognize you as someone who “has friends …” Not on entertainers so much (Bieber, for example), but “captains of industry” types. Donald Trump will NEVER be arrested for DUI no matter how “UI” he drives. They will give him a ticket and tell him to get his lawyer and go to the police station at his convenience.

  • idamag

    Maybe, we should take another look at letting this happen to suspected drug dealers. Any perverted cop could use that excuse.

    • Daniel Jones

      More likely many perverted cops *are* using it.

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  • Allan Richardson

    Nothing will change until police begin treating members of the CEO class the same way. Say that a bank president is suspected of stealing from depositors and spending it on cocaine (of course that would NEVER happen), and as he leaves work and walks to his car in the parking garage, a half dozen cops draw their guns and tell him to “assume the position” on the ground. Then they perform an illegal body cavity search for cocaine, and an illegal search of his Mercedes for fraudulent documents and cash, seizing the cash and the Mercedes. Start treating VIPs who are suspected of crimes the same way working class people are treated, and the police departments will be cleaned out of bad cops, and the city halls, state houses, governor’s mansions, Congress and the White House will rediscover the Bill of Rights!