A national debate over the supposed militarization of police has ensued since rioting has disturbed Ferguson, Missouri, following the alleged shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown this week. Today, local authorities are due to release the name of the officer who is alleged to have shot Brown. After four nights of violent demonstrations and arson, no demonstrators or rioters have been injured. Overnight on August 14-15, Missouri state police restored order after having taken over from local officers. The mood was described as relatively peaceful and almost festive.
Police tactics have proved controversial elsewhere in the United States as police forces have increasingly resorted to military weapons, vehicles and tactics in order to quell protests and to further prosecute the war on drugs.
For example, it was in 2012 that Javier Peru, a sheriff's deputy of Hidalgo County, New Mexico, questioned citizen Tim Young at a local convenience store. Young consented to a search of his vehicle. After two hours of searching Young's truck, Deputy Peru reportedly found nothing. Deputy Peru then called for a canine search by Leo, the sheriff department's canine. That search yielded nothing either.
However, Leo's handler claimed that the canine had found something in the driver's seat of the vehicle.
Accused of concealing illegal narcotics in his rectum, Young - a married man and father of three - was cuffed and driven an hour away to Gila Medical Center in Silver City NM - a hospital in another jurisdiction - and subjected to involuntary x-rays. When hospital staff determined that nothing was secreted in Young's rectum, officers ordered an anal cavity search anyway, despite being in a jurisdiction where they had no authority and where their warrant was invalid. Again, nothing was found and Young was released.
However, Young's ordeal had not yet ended. Days after his anal cavity search, he was billed over $600 for hospital services.
The very same sheriff's department subjected another citizen to similar treatment weeks later. On January 2, 2013, David Eckert, 63, was detained and then subjected to x-rays, two anal probes, three forced enemas, as well as a complete colonoscopy during an ordeal that lasted fourteen hours. The search revealed no concealed narcotics. To add insult to injury, Eckart later received a hospital bill amounting to $6,000.
The searches conducted by the Hidalgo County deputies proved to be very expensive for local tax payers. Local authorities have since paid the two men $2.5 million to settle their lawsuits. Eckert's lawsuit also named two physicians and the hospital were the x-rays and colonoscopy were conducted. They have not yet settled the lawsuit.
No officers have been disciplined. Leo - the department canine - had no valid certification as a drug dog at the time of the searches.
"I feel that I got some justice as I think the settlement shows they were wrong to do what they did to me," Eckert said in a written statement. "I truly hope that no one will be treated like this ever again. I felt very helpless and alone on that night. My family and I hope that people understand that I don't want my face linked with jokes related to anal probing. For this reason, I asked my attorneys to issue this statement in the hopes that the media will respect my privacy."
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