Police Misconduct: The Worst Case in November

Over at Cato’s Police Misconduct Reporting Project, we have named the worst case for the month of November. It was the repeated, forced cavity search of two young men—in separate incidents—in New Mexico. 

The first victim, David Eckert, was pulled over by police for failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign. After a police K-9 who was uncertified for drug searches indicated the presence of marijuana, the officers told a judge that the victim appeared to be “clenching his buttocks” and requested a body cavity search warrant, which the judge granted. The officers took Eckert to a local hospital and requested that doctors perform the search, but the hospital doctors refused. The cops then took Eckert to a second hospital, in a neighboring county that was not covered by the warrant, where they found doctors willing to perform the search.

First, the doctors took an x-ray of Eckert’s abdomen, which showed no hidden drugs. Next, they forcibly probed Eckert’s anus with their fingers, which again uncovered no drugs. Undeterred, the doctors inserted an enema and forced Eckert to defecate in front of the officers: again, no drugs. The enema search was repeated twice, and still no drugs were found. Another x-ray was taken: no drugs. To cap off Eckert’s nightmare ordeal, the officers had the doctors sedate him and perform a colonoscopy, probing his anus, colon, rectum, and large intestines. No drugs found.  All of this was done against Eckert’s protest, in a county not covered by the search warrant, with part of the search done after the warrant had expired.

The second victim, Timothy Young, was brutalized in a similar manner after he was pulled over for failing to signal before making a turn, and after another marijuana indication by the same non-certified police dog. He was taken to the same hospital as Eckert and subjected to similar searching methods against his protests.

Cato’s Police Misconduct website often reports instances of police rape and sexual misconduct. In those cases, the offending officers typically do not contend that they have the legal right to abuse their victims’ bodies and are typically punished for their crime, even if often more lightly than others would be punished. Cases like this are entirely different. These cases show that officers can drum up warrants—for a dog’s bark and a perceived “clench”—to repeatedly and forcefully penetrate the depths of the human body for hours on end, and still think they have the power and lawful authority to repeat the process. Even worse, the futile, repeated nature of the searches seriously calls into doubt whether the officers were actually searching for drugs or just torturing the victims under the banner of law enforcement.