Two roadside stops by Texas police turned into humiliating episodes for four women after the cops conducted cavity searches on the victims while they stood at the side of the road.
Both cases happened in 2012, but are getting more attention since one set of victims came forward last month. Attorneys and civil rights experts suspect the cases aren't isolated – and show that someone, somewhere in Texas is training police to think this behavior is OK.
Both incidents were caught on video from the officers' dash cameras.
"When I saw that video, I was shocked," Dallas attorney Peter Schulte, a former Texas police officer, told the N.Y. Daily News. "I was a law enforcement officer for 16 years and I've never seen anything like it."
The first case involved Ashley and Angel Dobbs, an aunt and niece who were pulled over when an officer saw them throw cigarette butts out on the street. According to their lawsuit, the women deny throwing cigarettes out the window, but they went along with the officer's demands.
After he failed to find any drugs, he called for a woman officer to come on scene and search the women. The female officer, Kelley Helleson, arrived and started searching the women. She reached into each woman's pants, from the front and from the back, failing to change gloves in between. Both women say the officer reached her fingers inside their anuses and vaginal areas.
They were let go with a warning for littering after the officers found nothing incriminating.
Helleson has since been fired, and the women won a $185,000 settlement for the incident, according to TV station NBC DFW.
The second case emerged in July, involving Brandy Hamilton and Alexandra Randle. Heading home from the beach on Memorial Day weekend in 2012, they were pulled over by an officer for speeding. Hamilton was driving, wearing just a bikini. She asked if she could pull on a dress to cover up, but the officer said no.
After a lengthy stop, he called for a female officer to search the women. Again, using just one glove, she reached into the women's private areas and stuck her fingers inside.
There is a pending possession of marijuana charge against one of the women now.
The female officer, Jenny Bui, has been fired and the male officer, Nathaniel Turner, has been suspended, according to TV station KHOU. Hamilton and Randle say they're suing because they want to raise awareness that these kinds of things are happening to women in Texas.
ThinkProgress points out that the searches likely violated the women's Constitutional rights. Police have "wide latitude" to search vehicles, because the law doesn't give the same privacy rights to cars as it does to your home. But ThinkProgress points out that in order to conduct a cavity or strip search, officials must have some evidence that the person being searched might actually be hiding something there.
"It is doubtful that Texas police had any reason to specifically believe that the ... women searched in these videos were carrying marijuana in their vaginas or rectums," the website said.
Warning: The videos below may be disturbing.