A New Jersey state trooper roadside strip search that was caught on body-cam sparked criticism while the driver has filed notice of intention to sue, alleging that he was sexually assaulted and that his civil rights were violated.
The incident, which happened more than a year ago, spurred questions about how much power New Jersey state troopers have during a traffic stop, Philly.com reported, after John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project, posted the body-cam and dashcam videos on his website.
Paff obtained the video through an open public records request in January after coming across the legal filing of the 23-year-old Toms River driver.
According to Philly.com, Trooper Joseph Drew had pulled a car over for tailgating and claimed that he smelled marijuana. Drew warned the driver of the strip search after his search of the driver’s vehicle was fruitless.
“You can tell me where it is right now or I can go in and get it,” Drew could be heard telling the driver in the video, per Philly.com.
The website said the trooper is then seen pulling on blue latex gloves, reaching into the driver’s underwear, and apparently grabbing his genitals and buttocks while the two stand on Route 206 in Southampton, Burlington County in view of traffic. The body search came up empty for drugs as well, Philly.com reported.
“I did not realize that the odor of marijuana, without more, justified a roadside, under-clothes search of a motorist’s genitals and anus by a state trooper clad in latex gloves,” Paff wrote on his website.
Philly.com reported that the State Police Internal Affairs is investigating the incident while Drew and a backup trooper, Andrew Whitmore, remain on patrol.
Amol Sinha, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, told Philly.com that troopers must have probable cause for such a search and said “it’s debatable whether the smell of marijuana is sufficient.”
Sinha called the search “humiliating and undignified,” per the website.
Philly.com wrote that the New Jersey attorney general’s policy says anyone who is detained or arrested, but not placed in jail may not be strip or body cavity searched without a search warrant or consent and authorization by a superior.
In emergencies, the policy states that such searches may be performed if law enforcement officers have “probable cause to believe that the person is concealing a weapon, contraband or evidence of crime,” Philly.com wrote.
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