A San Antonio woman, who alleged that a police officer removed her tampon in a vagina cavity examination in the full glare of male officers, will receive a $205,000 settlement.
Natalie Simms, 40, argued in a lawsuit that the officer violated her rights during a cavity search for drugs on the street in 2016.
“I don’t think any amount of money would compensate Natalie for what she has gone through. She feels a piece of her was taken away that can’t be restored,” Simms’ lawyer Dean Malone told the .
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“So the dollar amount is not really indicative to her of what she experienced, but she believes the settlement is recognition that what happened to her was wrong,” he said.
On 8th August 2016, a police officer searching Simms for illegal drugs told her to spread her legs on the side of a San Antonio street. According to Ms. Simms, in a federal lawsuit, the female officer then shined a flashlight into her underwear, reached in and pulled out her tampon.
Reacting to the suit, Carl Takei, a senior staff lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union said: “This is a shocking search. It is grossly invasive, without probable cause to arrest, the officers’ decision to conduct a search based on speculation was highly inappropriate.”
Dash camera video shows Ms. Simms being searched by a San Antonio police officer. Pic Credit: Law Offices of Dean Malone, P.C.
Ms Simms sued the city of San Antonio and now-retired San Antonio Police Department detective Mara Wilson, who had conducted the search for damages, claiming the act was a “blatant violation” of her constitutional rights, and resulted “in significant and lasting harm”.
In Texas, it is illegal to strip-search a person or their property without their consent or a warrant, and searches of body cavities must be conducted out of public view. However, Simms was humiliated and degraded as a result of this police officers’ actions, Attorney Malone
According to the complaint, the following conversation ensued between Officer Wilson, a veteran of the San Antonio Police Department, when she began searching Ms. Simms.
The officer asked if Ms. Simms had anything in her pants and whether Ms. Simms was wearing a tampon; she responded that she was on her period.
“I’m just going to look, I’m not going to reach,” Officer Wilson said until she pulled the string and removed the tampon to the shock of Ms. Simms.
“It’s full of blood, right? Why would you do that?” she said, according to of the interaction caught on dash camera video from Officer Wilson’s vehicle.
“I don’t know,” Officer Wilson reportedly said, “It looked like it had stuff in there.” She held the tampon up and made statements about it before continuing to search the area around Ms. Simms’ genitals, while telling Ms. Simms to remain still.
Ms. Simms said that during the search, she complained and asked if it could continue at a police station but Officer Wilson refused her requests. She was eventually allowed to drive off when no drugs were found but according to her, her “dignity and self-worth” were left behind.
Ms. Wilson retired from the Police Department in May 2017.