Anal rape: Just another tool police in New Mexico — and other states — use to fight the drug war

Great reporting here from ReasonTV about those awful anal cavity search stories in New Mexico.

Given that you know what happens when the cameras stop rolling, the security video is absolutely chilling. As the video points out, the cops’ obsession with anal cavity searches is odd, given that there’s no reason for someone to be smuggling drugs that way if they aren’t crossing a border. Not surprisingly, these abuses are also being incentivized by anti-drug grants from the federal government.

It’s also useful to stop and reflect on the bigger picture here. The government believes it has the power to forcibly enter your body in the name of preventing you and others from getting high. If you’re innocent, tough luck. Oh, and they’re going to send you a medical bill for your troubles.

These searches were illegal. And Timothy Young and David Eckert were at least compensated (by taxpayers). But as I wrote in a piece for Huffington Post last year, the fact that they’re illegal doesn’t stop them from happening — and not just in New Mexico: There have been other cases in Texas, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Michigan. If you or I illegally penetrate someone’s anus, we’re culpable for criminal sexual assault. But if a police officer illegally penetrates someone’s anus, or orders someone else to do it, it’s just a misunderstanding of the law. No one is to blame.

The cops who ordered these searches not only weren’t arrested, they weren’t disciplined in any way. The judge who signed off on the warrant in the Eckert search is protected by absolute immunity. Same for the prosecutor. The hospital staff who perform these “searches” are also committing ethical violations. But they too are unlikely to face any sanctions because they’re complying with a police request. This especially true with requests that come with a warrant.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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Radley Balko · August 4