Shame (Tales from the Drug War)

Via KOB:  4 On Your Side investigates traffic stop nightmare

The whole article should be read (and the video watched) and should evoke a sickening outrage (at least if one thinks that individual human rights matter). The summary of events goes like this:  man fails to adequately stop at a stop sign and is pulled over.   When asked to step out of his vehicle, the man “appeared to be clenching his buttocks” and therefore “Law enforcement thought that was probable cause to suspect that Eckert was hiding narcotics in his anal cavity.”   This led to deployment of drug dogs who reacted to the car’s seat.  According to a lawsuit filed by the man in question, the result of this suspicion led to two x-rays, 3 enemas (in which the man was made to defecate in front of doctors and police), and a colonoscopy.  And to add insult to injury, the man is being charged for the procedures.

Even if one is inclined to assert that the details of the lawsuit have not been established in a court of law, we do know that a search warrant was sought for the search and medical records do show that a colonoscopy was performed. (And we know that the warrant expired at 10pm, but the colonoscopy was performed at 1am—and the search warrant was issued in one county, but executed in a different county after law enforcement shopped for a doctor who would perform the procedures).

So, let that sink in:  because a person failed to properly stop at a stop sign, and because a sheriff’s deputy thought that the individual was clenching his buttocks (and therefore might be hiding drugs), an individual was detained for 14 hours and subjected to treatment that belongs in a novel about a dystopian, totalitarian state, not a country that is supposedly proud of its democratic heritage.

This is disgraceful and underscores the way in which the war on drugs goes array.

h/t:  LGM.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Dave W. says:

    If half the number of people who oppose Obamacare because of “tyranny!” cared about actual government tyranny such as this event, then maybe we would see something actually done about the people who perpetrated this atrocity.

  2. Al says:

    Bold prediction: No prosecutions of any of the police officers or civilians involved in the rape of Eckert will happen. Prosecutors need to have to police on their side to win cases and won’t put that at risk.

    No police officers will be punished in any meaningful way. Things might be a bit different with the hospital but only because they, unlike the police department, could end up being directly liable. But then again, this isn’t the first incident of this kind so that might be a little optimistic.

  3. KM says:

    WTF are the conservatives on this?! This is what big government is, people! This is what invasive government and eroding of rights looks like. You can get something shoved up your ass at the will of the government and against yours because they guessed you had something they wanted. Dude, that’s not just assault, that’s RAPE. And its government-mandated.

    Everyone involved in this violation of rights needs to go to jail, period. The police who started this, the damn doctor who agreed to this, the judge who signed the warrant, all of them. WTF is wrong with New Mexico?!

  4. KM says:

    @Al:

    Then call the Feds. Call ACLU. Call Anonymous. Call the freaking UN and charge them with a violation of human rights. Call anybody who will listen. Scream as loud as you can.

    This is terrifying. It can and will happen again. We need to fight back with whatever tools we have because that kind of tyrannical sickness spreads and it will infect everywhere some jackbooted asshole decides to flex his muscles (and we have far too many lately).

  5. Boyd says:

    @KM: Why are you castigating conservatives? Where does ideology enter into this story?

  6. Franklin says:

    Disgusting. Even worse is that they got a search warrant for this. Total failure of the system. But the bigger issue is that this was due to the continually failing war on drugs.

  7. Dave D says:

    I read about this yesterday and was appalled. But as someone who regularly reads the writings of Radley Balko it wasn’t all that shocking. The drug war has done irrecoverable harm to this country. It has militarized the police forces, built up the largest prison industrial complex in the world, torn apart families and instituted a system of institutional racism in its mandatory sentencing laws. All of this costs tax payers and all of it erodes our freedoms as the Fourth Amendment has become a neutered, and impotent protection.

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    This led to deployment of drug dogs who reacted to the car’s seat.

    As I always point out, did the dogs actually “react” or did the cops just claim they reacted? There’s no independent verification of this other than the policeman’s word, which is why I would not allow evidence or a stop based on a police dog’s so-called “reaction.”

  9. Dave D says:

    @Boyd: Maybe he/she is a left wing civil liberties person and believes the civil libertarians need to make noise on this one too. It seems the only time we have meaningful bipartisan moves in this country has become when Congress is affected (insider trading, sequestration affecting air traffic controllers, etc.) Or when the far left and far right team up in defense of our liberties (most recently the votes on reforming the NSA.)

  10. Ben says:

    When this story first popped up on Radley Balko’s twitter feed, I became so enraged that I couldn’t speak and my hands shook for a solid minute. The feeling of utter contempt, rage, and hatred I felt for this police officer, his superiors, and the judge that signed this warrant will last a lot longer. I wish more people would read this story. I’ve shared it everywhere I can.

  11. Dave D says:

    @Rafer Janders: There are tons of videos of people who record their interactions with the police where they have cops on tape forcing false positives. Apparently, the handler can do small things which make the dogs react in the absence of any trigger.

  12. John Burgess says:

    I recommend Orin Kerr’s piece at Volokh Conspiracy on this subject. He notes that there are many vagaries in the various laws that govern and that it’s unlikely that the policemen involved are going to see much bad in their lives other than publicity.

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/11/07/thoughts-eckert-v-city-deming/

  13. JWH says:

    @Boyd: I think KM is pointing out that conservatives are very loud about how the government threatens liberty when it tries to get people to buy health insurance, but they seem rather silent about abuses in the war on terror and the war on drugs.

  14. The War on Drugs was simply a reason. The underlying disease is that we have let a police state run amok, and simply consider human rights to be secondary. No one cares as long as they, themselves aren’t personally affected. Simply put, no one cares. As long as the trains run on time.

    I hope this guy takes jobs, and enough money to where he never has to work again.

  15. Boyd says:

    @JWH: If anyone thinks conservatives are collectively being silent on this, they’re listening in the wrong places.

    This “accusation” is just another chink in the divide between the liberals and conservatives, and it’s short-sighted and arrogant to think that if you haven’t personally heard something, that it hasn’t been addressed.

  16. Mikey says:
  17. @Boyd: I think you make a very valid point about global assertions that “conservatives” (or “liberals” or whomever) can be accused of a particular view.

    However, three things on this topic do come to mind:

    1. As a general observation, this case is a far truer example of tyrannical behavior by a government agent than are most things that are often called “tyranny” in our political discourse. One can, for example, disagree about a given income tax rate, or even the individual mandate over health insurance, but calling those things “tyrannical” cheapens the term. It would be nice if words like “tyranny” (amongst other terms) were used appropriately in contemporary politics.

    2. The main proponents of prohibitionists policies in regards to certain drugs have been social conservatives.

    3. Conservative presidents (esp. Nixon and Reagan) have been major boosters of the drug war. Although, in fairness, even more moderate-to-liberal presidents (HW Bush, Clinton, W, Obama) have also fueled the drug war. Really, the only president that I can think of who tried to step it back was Carter. Additionally, Obama’s Drug Czar has said some moderate things and the current DOJ is not pursuing states who have decriminalized marijuana (not that any DOJ has been all that aggressive on the subject).

    Just some thoughts for consideration.

  18. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: While I agree with all your numbered points, they’re really tangential to KM’s exhortation to conservatives. As usual, I’m feebly derailing the discussion of the larger point to push back against inaccuracies and the continuing drive to greater partisanship rather than cooperation.

    Plus, the arrogance annoys me. As usual.

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @KM: WTF are the conservatives on this?!

    This story has been all over the conservative blogs for the last couple of days.

    The Other McCain: Police Seek Drug Trafficking Network Inside New Mexico Man’s Rectum

    Ace of Spades: Cops Give Innocent Man Multiple Rectal Exams, Without Consent, To Find Drugs That Weren’t There

    Protein Wisdom: Great Leaps forward

    I kinda liked RSM’s take on it; great title. It’s OTB that’s behind the curve.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    someone who regularly reads the writings of Radley Balko it wasn’t all that shocking

    Exactly. Balko and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on politics. But he’s a national treasure nonetheless.

    Anyway: appalling, yes. Surprising, no.

    Further, I agree with Boyd here: we should be pulling together on this stuff. It is indeed true that a subset of conservatives are all law & order and cops can do no wrong, but then again liberal support for public employee unions comes into play here too (I’m sure the cop union will fight tooth and nail to prevent any serious action against these officers. See also: the cop who pepper sprayed those protesters out in CA? He got $38k in workers comp for having a sad over being called out). Let’s let that go, if we can.

  21. KM says:

    @Boyd:

    I didn’t mean to be partisan or castigate the way you meant. I come from a long line of former conservatives that have grown disenchanted with this nonsense. Many feel that the War on Drugs is not only necessary but excuses many things they would otherwise find horrifying. I expected this thread to be full of commentary by Jenos and such screaming about Obama, big government, tyranny, dictatorships, yadda yadda.

    Silence.

    The normal voices are not here – they’re posting on the election posts. Maybe I just got there first but so far, there’s precious few self-identified conservatives here denouncing this. I thought I’d have to agree with them – an odd thought. Silence. Where is everyone? Why is this not a 50+ comment thread?

    @Boyd: Maybe he/she is a left wing civil liberties person and believes the civil libertarians need to make noise on this one too.

    She. And very much so. Politics has nothing to do with this – a citizen was horribly wronged and we should all address this. This is how a police state really starts. Any American with any inkling of freedom and honor should be vocally outraged. I ask where my brethren are.

  22. KM says:

    @Jenos:

    Thank you for the headlines/links. Off to read.

  23. Boyd says:

    @KM: Ah, the shortcomings of written communication!

    Even after re-reading your original comment in light of your latest comments, I don’t entirely accept your characterization of what you meant, but in the interests of the cooperation I called for, I’ll move on. And cry for the heads of the numerous people who participated in this egregious travesty.

  24. Todd says:

    Anytime we declare a euphemistic “war on ____” all it really does is give (some in) government an excuse to erode civil liberties and enrich favored special interests.

    On another note …

    I think a little bit of what KM was getting at is that while Conservatives do get mad about this sort of thing, for the most part they always (at least try to) find a way to make it about Obama!

    So many people in this country are outraged anytime you mention the Federal government. But the reality is that when it comes civil liberties the most egregious violations are most often perpetuated at the local level.

    Here’s a sad experiment to try.

    The next time you run into someone who’s steaming mad about “the government” (read: Washington), ask them if they can tell you the name of their town’s Mayor? … or the council person who represents their neighborhood? The County Sherif? Their State representative? etc.,

    Most won’t have a clue.

    … yet these are the government entities that almost certainly have a much greater impact on their lives than anyone in Washington ever will.

  25. Rob in CT says:

    I love that somebody downvoted both my post, and Boyd’s last. As John Persona sometimes says “dear idiot downvoter…”

  26. KM says:

    @Boyd: Most kind :). I do lament that the divide exists – I favor the “loyal opposition” tenant and have long felt the reason this country seems to be going hell in a handbasket is we can’t talk civilly anymore. Most of my best debates are against someone on the other side of the isle and its lead to a far more fruitful takeaway in terms of ideas and work.

    I truly expected to be late to the party on this one (at OTB anyways) and was shocked I was not.

  27. Boyd says:

    @Todd: Shouldn’t you include an Irony flag in a comment that decries ODS and ignores the years of BDS that continues in some quarters to this very day?

  28. Rob in CT says:

    @Todd:

    A lot of truth in that post. It applies to me, even (though I can name our first selectman, and given that we have 1 resident state trooper, police overreach isn’t something my town has to deal with politically). For reasons I can’t quite fathom, I get much more fired up/interested/engaged by national politics. Local politics: a little, if we’re having trouble passing a budget. State politics, which really do matter, is where I’m really deficient. I vote, yeah, but I really don’t… care, the way I should.

  29. Rob in CT says:

    @Boyd:

    “BDS” as I recall it, was basically about trying to shut people up about the war. Perhaps you had a different experience. [maybe people trying to blame the 2000-2001 market crash & recession on Bush? If so, I’ll happily grant that as an example]

  30. KM says:

    @Todd: This!!!

    I had to listen this morning about how the “wrong party won!” in the cafeteria. I asked if they have could name someone – not who they voted for but all they could have chosen from. Silence then a tentative name that was totally incorrect. Everyone else in the room didn’t even know they should have voted yesterday! Maddening!

    You are FAR more likely to be screwed by the local police then the Feds, the town zoning board then IRS. And nobody seems to care. Big government can be the size of your backyard IN your backyard. Civil liberties can die locally faster then they do nationally in increments you are not even noticing.

  31. Rob in CT says:

    Holy sh*t. I just now noticed (after having read the story repeatedly on various sites) that the hospital is trying to bill the poor bastard. How in the hell? Even if he did have drugs up his butt, shouldn’t the bill be directed to the police? W.T.F., America?

  32. Rob in CT says:

    The latest:

    http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/11/05/man-seeks-millions-after-nm-police-force-colonoscopy-in-drug-search

    The “hispanic officers didn’t like the look of my ‘white boy’ client” is an interesting angle (though I’m not sure I’d go with “white boy” for a man of 63). I’ve seen various theories floated about what was “really going on”:

    1) Atrios, I think, was first to float the “asset siezure attempt” theory.
    2) The man’s lawyer has gone with possible racial prejudice
    3) And of course the stock abuse of power whaddya mean you don’t have the drugs we thought you had?

    Anybody got any other ideas?

  33. Todd says:

    @Boyd:

    lol, I didn’t have a clue what ODS and BDS were until I saw Rob’s post a couple down from yours.

    If you’d like, sure I’d be happy to add the “irony flag” to my post.

    That said, maybe I’m just not totally informed on exactly the extent of “BDS”, but most of the people I know who were most mad at President Bush were upset about the Iraq war.

    I’m sorry, but there’s a huge difference between a mother (Cindy Sheehan is probably the poster child for BDS) who’s son died in an unnecessary war (I did 3 deployments myself btw), and people who think it’s “tyranny” that poor people might finally have access to affordable healthcare coverage.

    Just. not. the. same. thing.

  34. Todd says:

    @KM:

    In about a month I’m going to be moving to a new town, for a post-military job. This will be my first opportunity to get involved with local politics. For most of my adult life, I’ve voted in Florida, but haven’t actually lived there. So I’m really looking forward to finally getting the opportunity to have a say in decisions that will actually affect me and my family the most.

  35. David M says:

    I’d like to think the police, judge, hospital, et al were out of line even if they found drugs. Given that he was just shopping at Walmart, I don’t think the actions could ever be justified.

  36. @Dave W.: Agreed.

  37. John Burgess says:

    @Mikey: You’ve got to convince a few appeals courts, then the USSC on that point. So far, they aren’t buying it.

  38. Boyd says:

    @Todd: Folks who believe BDS was limited to our invasion of Iraq are thinking too small.

    ODS, like BDS before it and continuing to this day, is all about blaming the President for everything we don’t like. Blaming President Obama for this incident is no different from blaming President Bush for my cat getting run over in the street. Both require the believer to have lost touch with reality.

  39. Rob in CT says:

    @Boyd:

    Who blamed Dubya for their cat? Seriously, what are you talking about? You throw out BDS as if it was a real thing, but haven’t actually backed it up. I remember the Bush years quite clearly, and I remember “BDS” being thrown around to deflect criticism of POTUS. I remember it being used against people who were angry about Iraq and the War on Terror, which required no derangement at all.

    I do recall attempts to blame Bush for the ’01 recession, and they fell flat for good reason. If we want to call that BDS, fine, no problem, though unfortunately it’s standard operating proceedure in our politics to blame the person in office when the music stops, whether or not that makes any sense.

    Compare and contrast with claims of “welcome to Obama’s America” when somebody gets mugged.

  40. Boyd says:

    @Rob in CT: Okay, Rob. BDS was legitimate, but ODS is racist (or whatever pejorative you choose to use). I don’t care.

  41. Todd says:

    @Boyd:

    You know what, I’ll conceded one thing, if we’d had Facebook during the Bush years then maybe there would have been more evidence of “irrational” BDS. But for the most part, and again just within my own circles (which certainly don’t represent the entire population), the people I saw who were most mad at President Bush usually had a reason that at least made sense (i.e. the Iraq war, or the Patriot Act) … even if I wasn’t always quite as passionate myself.

    Contrast that with some of my most pissed off Conservative friends. I see the things they post on their FB walls. It’s sad enough that they spend so much of their lives so mad. But the real tragedy is that many of the things they’re most upset about aren’t even true. (at the very least not in the way they’ve been led to “understand” them)