A viral video has surfaced from a protest in Austin Texas where people are accusing the officer of groping a female who had been arrested. You can see a woman is in handcuffs, and in the very beginning the officer seems to be pressing on her chest. Bystanders yell that the officer is groping her and the woman pulls away. The officer pushes her back onto his car forcefully, and you can hear the woman yell for a female officer to perform her search, as the officer once again grabs at her chest.
This clearly isn’t going over well online and a lot of people expected more from the Austin Police Department which is supposed to be progressive and just passed new Use of Force policy updates to avoid hurting protestors.
The officer in the video has not yet been identified but the Austin Police Department have confirmed he is one of their officers and they are “looking into the incident”. The woman is Linda Nuno Trevino, who says she was attending a racial justice protest in Austin and was using her vehicle as a safety barricade for elderly protesters. It is alleged that she was pulled from her vehicle by police and arrested while her car was searched, which is when the video takes place.
People on Twitter are on both sides, with some saying this is how officers search all subjects and he was within his rights to search her, but others are saying he should have waited for a female officer and there’s reason to search her so aggressively.
One user tweeted “what does he think she was hiding under her breasts? As a woman, am I missing out on some secret pockets? Should I be trying to hide things in there? I’m genuinely curious” and another tweeted “soooo…WTF? From the officers POV, what could possibly be hiding in her shirt that you would need to do this to a woman handcuffed?”. Some people disagreed saying “he was conducting a proper female pat search…it is okay for a male officer with probable cause to disregard her request for a female officer if there is not one in proximity and he has a witness”.
The Austin Police Department’s Policy Manual states that all searches must be performed with “dignity and courtesy” and that if they need to search someone of the opposite gender, they “should do so in front of a recording system” such as a dash cam, “otherwise an officer of the same gender as the person should be requested”. So it does look like this search followed their official policies since the incident was being recorded by body cams and witnesses, but it’s less clear if she was treated with dignity.
We want to make clear that no matter the specific circumstances of her arrest or this search – it is wrong that she was violated by this officer and she felt her dignity and privacy were not respected.
Now this isn’t an isolated incident – incidences of officers conducting inappropriate searches on female detainees have been coming to light with the Black Lives Matter Movement over the past few months. Just recently the LAPD launched an investigation into an officer after body cam footage showed him groping a deceased woman’s’ chest.
There’s also this video from 2019 where a Woman in North Carolina sued a police officer for assaulting her while she was being detained for drunk driving – it is resurfacing and doesn’t look good for this police department either. The woman was stopped at a gas station for suspected drunk driving, where officers had her perform a sobriety test before searching her person. The woman said the body cameras were turned off before the search went even further and she was assaulted. She hired an attorney to sue the officers involved and the entire police department for allowing her to be violated, and the department still maintains that the search was legal and appropriate.
If you haven’t seen this story already on twitter, a woman in San Antonio, Texas sued the city for damages after claiming officers removed her tampon during a body search. Body camera footage proved her claims and she was awarded over $200,000 in 2019 when the case was finally closed. This story was spread online after the murder of George Floyd as another example of police brutality against women of color.
All of these reports and videos together do seem to show a shocking pattern and sexual assault is another angle of police brutality people are bringing attention too – as it’s just another way officers are abusing their power to violate marginalized groups of society.