Saturday, February 02, 2008

Stark County, Ohio - woman forcibly, inappropriately strip searched

Fair warning - these videos are difficult to watch, and are not appropriate for young children or most workplaces.

Stark County, Ohio - woman forcibly, inappropriately strip searched (article and video). | Part 2 (only video).

Background: Hope Steffy, a woman from Stark county, Ohio was assaulted by a cousin, leading to a 911 call for help. When the police arrived, things got confused and the officer began treating Steffy as the troublemaker, not the victim. He requested to see her ID, and she mistakenly handed him the driver's license of her deceased sister- something she keeps as a memento in her wallet. This eventually led to her being cuffed and taken to the station to answer questions.

She was asked a standard battery of mental status questions, such as "do you have any desire to hurt yourself" - to which she said, "Now, or ever?" At that response, she was wrestled to the floor and forcibly stripped. The article includes a video of this part - you can see this small blond woman being pinned to the floor by at least 7 officers, 2 of whom are men. The policy of the Stark county sheriff is that any strip search must be completed only by officers of the same sex as the prisoner, which very obviously did not happen in this case.

You can hear many times in the video, Steffy ask why they are doing this to her, what is going on, etc. When they start removing her bra and underwear, she starts screaming for help. Sheriff's office representatives admit to then leaving Steffy alone in the cell, totally naked without even a blanket, for the next 6 hours, and later giving her only a weighted vest to wear when she is taken to booking. During her 6 hours in the cell, she was denied access to a phone or medical treatment for the broken tooth, bulging disk, and bruises she sustained during the strip.

The news crew investigating this story has received little response to their queries to the sheriff's office for the other side of the story, beyond a simple denial of the allegations. But this video is pretty damning, for what it shows. Even if not all of the allegations prove true, it is painfully obvious that the department policy of only allowing female officers to strip a female prisoner was violated - up to the point that the last 2 people in the room with Steffy were both men. Steffy and her husband are suing the sherrif's office over this incident, and themselves released the information to the news crew - though it seems that the news crew obtained the video on their own.

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