Exposing a Man’s Buttocks by Cutting Their Underwear Off (and possibly probing their rectum) in Public, is NOT acceptable

This is not a general post criticizing law enforcement. This is a post about a very specific incident that occurred here in Lee County. When I first heard that there was a video of police pulling a baggie of drugs out of someone’s rectum along the side of the road, I thought there must be a mistake. Certainly possession of illegal substances is a serious issue, but an invasive cavity search, without a warrant, with a crowd of onlookers… that couldn’t be true. Then I watched the video.

It is impossible to see detail, the individual taking the video was kept at a distance. In fact, at numerous points an officer instructs him to stop filming, which certainly the officer knows (considering various national discussions), he had no right to do. Then there are the screams of a man which are unmistakable and hard to listen to as numerous officers appear to forcefully spread his legs apart. The Fort Myers Police Department (FMPD), has stated that after the suspect gave them marijuana that was in his underwear, he was clinching his buttocks and tightening his legs. As a result, they cut off the man’s underwear (in public) and found the underwear contained pockets with illegal drugs. It is, at best, a poor procedure to cut off a man’s underwear in public with a crowd of both men and women watching.

Perhaps I am behind the times on underwear because I didn’t even know they come with pockets now, but even so, what brand of underwear would have a pocket located between a man’s buttocks. If as the report stated the issue was the suspects refusal to spread his buttocks … what does that have to do with pockets on his briefs? The suspect has since admitted he had drugs secreted in his rectum. I have had a lot of clients lie to me … but not one has ever lied about having stuck drugs up their butt?

While the body cam footage should clear up any discrepancies there are some larger issues to consider here. If indeed there was a cavity search, it should be considered unconstitutional. It was conducted without a warrant and while there are some exceptions to warrantless searches, I don’t see any of those exceptions applying in this case. Secondly, even if they had reason to believe that the individual had drugs secreted in his rectum, a roadside search in which the officer used a knife to cut the man’s underwear off is really REALLY bad form. There is no reason why the individual could not have been taken to a private located and had a search conducted without a crowd of onlookers.

However, the most important thing here is that this comes as the city and law enforcement talk about building more trust in the community. A video showing what appear to be jubilant officer telling onlookers they found drugs in the man’s “hiney” hardly helps build that trust. I would posit that taken in the best light, cutting off a man’s underwear in public does not help FMPD’s image. This video, combined with the recent city decision (which was later rescinded) to barricade residents in the Harlem Lakes community (but dropping concrete barriers on one of the two ways into and out of the community) to reduce crime, show the city and law enforcement agencies that are out of touch.

We need to reduce crime in Fort Myers. This is not the type of policing we need to accomplish that.