Strip search complaint prompts Wayne sheriff's office changes
Posted July 7, 2011
Goldsboro, N.C. — The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office is implementing new policies after WRAL News investigated a man’s claim that he was strip searched on the side of a highway last month.
Brandon Cline, of Goldsboro, said two law enforcement officers pulled him over on U.S. Highway 70 “for supposedly speeding.”
Sgt. Matt Miller and Deputy Jeremy Hooker stopped Cline around 12:30 p.m. on June 9. They said his windows were tinted too dark and asked to search his car, according to Cline, who agreed to the search.
Miller and Hooker said they found marijuana, which Cline denies ever having.
“And then they told me to drop my pants for a strip search. I said, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’ They said, ‘If you don’t do it, you’ll be tased,’” Cline recalled. “(I dropped my) pants, boxers, everything down to my ankles.”
Captain Richard Lewis said his men performed the strip search behind their patrol cars so passing motorists couldn’t see Cline’s exposed body.
The sheriff’s office denies threatening Cline with a Taser, but acknowledges there is no dashboard camera video to prove it either way. The dash cam in one car was broken and the other hadn't been installed, according to Lewis.
The other issue that can’t be proven is whether Cline had marijuana in his car. The authorities who claimed to have found it never collected the drugs as evidence.
“They didn’t write me a citation for anything. They just told me to have a good day,” Cline said.
When asked why Cline wasn't cited or charged, Lewis said law enforcement officers are allowed to use their discretion.
Defense attorney Robert Nunley examined the case, at the request of WRAL, and described it as “an excessive use of force situation.”
“The first thing people need to realize is that you have the right not to consent to a search of your vehicle,” he said.
For those who get pulled over, Nunley suggests stopping in a well-lit area and calling 911 if something seems odd about the traffic stop.
“Ninety-nine percent of officers are by the book,” he said. However, if officers suspect drugs are in someone’s car, they typically don’t make the person get naked on the side of the road, he said.
“A strip search is generally done back at a police department in a room where privacy is afforded to you,” Nunley said.
Lewis says the sheriff's office did an internal investigation into Cline's traffic stop and strip search. Miller and Hooker, who are part of a drug enforcement team, are still employed, but new policies are now in place. Dash cameras must be working and any evidence from a search must be collected.