Things That Matter

Police Violated This Woman’s Rights And Dignity When They Pulled Out Her Tampon On The Side Of A Busy Street

On Thursday, the City of San Antonio approved a $205,000 payout to a woman who had been violated by police officers.

Natalie Simms, 40, sued the city of San Antonio, Texas and ex-Detective Mara Wilson — who removed Simms’ tampon despite being told she was on her period.

The unimaginable experience all started when Simms was sitting on a curb and was approached by police.

Natalie Simms, a woman in her late 30s living in San Antonio, wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary as she waited for her boyfriend on that day in August 2016. She was sitting on the curb, her car parked across the street, talking on the phone and minding her own business.

That’s when police officers arrived. They believed she might be in possession of illegal drugs and asked to search her car. After she agreed, they called a female officer to also search her. Even though she didn’t have any contraband, they said she couldn’t leave until she was fully searched by detective Mara Wilson, according to court records filed last year in the Western District of Texas.

Later, Wilson, who allegedly did not have a warrant at the time, asked Simms if she could pull down her shorts.

Out in the public, as cars drove by, Wilson conducted a vaginal cavity search, the lawsuit said. Wilson instructed Simms to “spread your legs,” and asked, “do you have anything down here before I reach down here?”

“Natalie began to realize, with shock, what Officer Wilson intended to do,” according to the lawsuit. “Officer Wilson intended to reach down into Natalie’s pants and made contact with her pubic hair and vagina.”

When Simms told Wilson that she was on her period, the lawsuit alleges that Wilson lied by saying she wasn’t going to reach into her pants but just “look.” Instead, with five male officers watching, Wilson “pulled open Natalie’s pants and underwear.”

The conversation between Simms and Wilson, taken directly from the lawsuit, reads:

WILSON: Uh-huh. Are you wearing a tampon, too?
SIMMS: Yes.
WILSON: Okay. I just want to make sure that’s what it is. Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: Come on. Yes.
WILSON: Huh? Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: It’s full of blood, right? Why would you do that?
WILSON: I don’t know. It looked like it had stuff in there.
SIMMS: There ain’t nothing in there.

Wilson also commented on the amount of pubic hair Simms had and continued to tell Simms they could not go to the police station to finish conducting the search, despite Simms’ persistence, the lawsuit states.

Following the search, Simms sued the city of San Antonio and Wilson, alleging the encounter to be a “blatant violation” of her constitutional rights that “resulted in significant and lasting harm.”

Natalie suffered through a shocking display of what can occur when police power is unchecked. Natalie was humiliated and degraded as a result of the police officer’s actions,” her attorney Dean Malone told local news station WOAI in March 2018. “We intend to seek full damages available under the law and look forward to presenting Natalie’s horrible experience to a jury.”

In a surprise twist to Simm’s case, however, city lawyers offered $205,000 to Simms

The city settled the case before it could go to trial.

“We evaluate cases and look for potential resolutions without the necessity of proceeding to trial.  We were able to resolve this matter with this proposed settlement and believe it to be in the best interest of all involved,” said City Attorney Andy Segovia.

In the wake of the incident, the city nor the police department has issued any sort of apology.

In the wake of the incident, Wilson, who retired in May 2017, stood by the way she searched Simms. “It was really nasty, but I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything in there,” she told another detective, according to court records. She claimed she needed to conduct the search because “you don’t know what they have. I mean, they stick all kinds of stuff.”

A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

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A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

Nick Ruiz / Getty

As the Coronavirus spreads throughout communities across the United States, one group of people are at particular risk for contracting the virus: migrant detainees.

Tens of thousands of migrants are packed into crowded detention centers with little access to proper sanitation or medical treatment. Even before the outbreak of Covid19, migrants were facing outbreaks of measles and influenza at greater numbers than the general public.

Now, as they demand information on the risk this new virus poses them, they’re being met with violence.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, so have confrontations between detainees and guards.

Credit: DHS / Office Of Inspector General

On Monday, migrants clashed with guards over a lack of safe conditions and demanded to be released from the South Texas Processing Center. The melee led to a standoff and the guards shot pepper spray at the detainees, which ended with nine of the migrants now held for disciplinary charges. The detainees had raised concerns about the lack of screening measures for new arrivals to the complex.

Then, a day later in Louisiana, an ICE spokesman said seven people were pepper-sprayed at the Pine Prairie detention center. Earlier, an ICE detainee in New Jersey described harrowing conditions and said migrants went on a hunger strike for soap. ProPublica obtained an audio recording in which the detainee said that guards, in response to the strike for hygiene products in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, told the detainees that they “have to die of something.”

The threat faced by detainees in ICE custody is real.

Credit: Grisel Gringis / YouTube

Four people — two correctional officers and two detainees — tested positive for COVID-19 at New Jersey detention facilities.

According to ICE’s guidance, new detainees who arrive at facilities are screened and isolated for a certain period of time if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms. The staff is also consulting with local health departments to determine whether there’s a need for testing.

For ICE’s part, they’re defending the use of chemicals against detainees as a necessary tool.

ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox told Mother Jones that pepper spray was used because “four persons became confrontational.” The rest of his statement said:

“The facility was conducting an informational briefing on COVID-19 preparations and safety measures in a detainee housing area to ensure persons in custody have accurate, timely information about the situation,”

As far as the use of force against migrants, he goes on to say: “ICE is tasked with providing safe and secure detention facilities for individuals in its custody. On March 25, at the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana, a group of ICE detainees became disruptive and confrontational with facility staff in their housing area. Detainees refused to comply with directives from facility staff and four attempted to force their way out of the housing area, at which time facility staff deployed oleoresin capsicum, commonly referred to as ‘OC’ spray. Upon deployment of OC, the detainees became compliant and facility staff was able to mitigate further risk of injury to both detainees and staff. This immediate use of force was conducted consistent with agency protocol. Medical staff evaluated all individuals who came in contact with the pepper spray; no detainee or staff injuries were reported.”

Even before the outbreak, ICE was using pepper spray against migrants in its facilities.

Last summer, over 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at a Louisiana Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. The incident happened after a group of detainees began to protest the conditions they were being forced to endure.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said that a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening,” adding that “after repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, a brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

And this incident came just a day after 30 migrants were sprayed at a separate Louisiana facility. It’s obvious ICE is eager to use pepper spray against detainees in their care.

A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

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A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

@KoltenParker / Twitter

Congressman Joaquin Castro called out a San Antonio police officer who was fired after colleagues reported him for feeding a dog feces sandwich to a homeless man but who successfully appealed his case. The incident happened in 2016, but Castro was reacting to an investigative journalism series on KSAT-12 called “Broken Blue.” 

Matthew Luckhurst, a bicycle patrol officer, was placed on indefinite suspension after the act was reported. However, Luckhurst won his case appeal through a loophole last March. San Antonio authorities insist he is still suspended and has not been reinstated to his job. 

Joaquin Castro calls out the San Antonio Police Department.

“One police officer gave a feces sandwich to a homeless man, was fired, appealed, got his job back,” Castro said of the importance of the “Broken Blue” series’ examination of San Antonio police corruption. 

The Texas representative believes law enforcement unions court public distrust when they side with bad officers.

“Police unions too often stand by bad officers regardless of how bad they’ve acted. It severely undermines public trust. I also believe the umbrella unions, such as the AFL-CIO, have a responsibility to speak up to help change this,” Castro continued. “These are some of the reasons I cannot support the further expansion of collective bargaining specifically for police unions across the country. Not until the disciplinary process is fixed and bad officers are properly held accountable.”

City Manager Erik Walsh echoed Castro’s feelings on collective bargaining to KSAT news

“Current collective bargaining agreement limits the Chief’s ability to appropriately discipline officers that deserve to be disciplined. We intend to bring those issues to the next contract negotiation with the police union,” he said.

The San Antonio Police Association (SAPOA) responds to Castro’s tweets. 

SAPOA released a statement saying the “Broken Blue” series was nothing short of an attack on the San Antonio police. The statement called the series “misleading and sensationalistic” and said that the cases featured were old and resolved several years before. 

“This series attacks SAPOA and our members by saying we’re too powerful and that we make it difficult to remove ‘problem’ officers,” Michel Helle, president of SAPOA, said in a statement. “While I agree we’re a strong organization when it comes to the discipline and appeals process, our role is simple and transparent: ensure that the rights of officers are observed and protected.”

SAPOA claims that in 10 years there have only been 40 “indefinite suspension” cases with 2,300 total police officers, making up .00017 percent of the force. Skeptics might say a lack of disciplinary action doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of wrongdoing, which is precisely the issue many critics of law enforcement have.

In the Atlantic’s 2019 piece about police accountability, reporter Ted Alcorn suggests that local police departments lack the transparency that allows public scrutiny. 

“Compared with other institutions of municipal government, police departments are unusually insulated from scrutiny,” Alcorn wrote. “Whereas other agencies give the public an opportunity to comment on policy changes before they go into effect, the decisions of law enforcement may be shared only after the fact, if at all. While the police chief usually answers to the mayor, city councilors, or members of a police commission, those officials can be reticent about second-guessing their public-safety officials.”

Luckhurst was able to win his appeal through a legal loophole. 

Colleagues reported that on May 6, 2016, Luckhurst fed a dog feces sandwich to a homeless person while on bike patrol. While there were no witnesses to the incident or bodycam footage, police officers found out because Luckhursthad been allegedly bragging about it. 

At first, Luckhurst challenged the events. Instead, he claimed that while clearing an encampment filled with litter, he told a homeless man to toss a piece of feces with a piece of bread he had picked up. Then, Luckhurst challenged the May 6 date. He claimed he had medical documents that meant he wouldn’t have been able to bike from April 6 to June 14, 2016. 

An arbitrator decided that because of the date flub and a lack of evidence that Luckhurt’s indefinite suspension should be voided. His indefinite suspension was shortened to only five days. Last May, Chief William McManus said they overturned the decision because a policy requires punishments to be doled out with 180 days of the incident. 

“He is still facing a separate indefinite suspension and we will vigorously defend the decision to terminate him,” McManus said.

However, Luckhurst has not returned to work because of a different incident where he was placed on indefinite suspension. In June 2016, police allege that Luckhurst defecated in the woman’s bathroom stall at the police department’s Bike Patrol Office. Officers say he spread “a brown, tapioca-like substance” on a toilet seat, according to My SA. 

Luckhurst is currently on indefinite suspension while he awaits the outcome of this arbitration.