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Laurel police deny public strip search charge | News

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Laurel police deny public strip search charge
News


Laurel, Md. (WUSA9) -- Laurel police are denying a Prince George's County man's claim that he was strip searched in public and intentionally humiliated during an unjustified traffic stop in March of 2014.

"The City unequivocally denies that the traffic stop, which was initiated by a call about a suspicious vehicle was the result of any racial profiling, or that racism of any type was involved," said a statement issued by Laurel City Spokesperson Audrey Barnes late Thursday (see the full statement at the end of this article).

"The City of Laurel and the Laurel Police Department also adamantly deny that the victim in this incident was strip searched, and his body exposed to public view by our officers," Barnes wrote in the statement.

The denial was issued after the city, its police chief, police department and officer Alfie G. Acol were sued by 50-year-old Allan Sergeant, a law-abiding auto mechanic in Prince George's County.

Acol was disciplined, retrained and put back on the street after the incident, and there have been no similar complaints against him.

Sergeant claims he was racially profiled during a traffic stop, and then subjected to an illegal, public strip search by Acol in March of 2014.

The lawsuit filed Thursday by attorneys from the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund lays out the story of a Prince George's County auto mechanic named Allan Sergeant, who claims he was the victim of a humiliating search, without any justifiable cause.


Sergeant
said that while driving down 2nd Street in Laurel on the evening of March 9, 2014, he was pulled over by a Laurel Police Department officer and told to get out of his car.

"I get up, open the door, and I stand up and say, 'Why are you gonna search my car? What did I do?' I keep asking him," Sergeant said in an interview on Wednesday. "He said, 'I'm telling you for the last time.' He put his hand on his gun and said' I'm telling you for the last time, I'm going to search this car with or without your permission. I'm gonna search this car.'

Previous story:
Lawsuit filed in Laurel public strip-search

Sergeant said the officer never actually searched his car. Instead, the officer searched him, first with a standard frisk, and then by removing Sergeant's belt, pants and underwear in full view of public CVS parking lot where the stop occurred.

"He unbuckled my belt, pulled my pants down. I keep saying [sic] 'what are you doing? You cannot do this. This is totally wrong.' He pulled my pants down," Sergeant recalled. "He pulled everything down. And then, look at my groin area, and then, he said 'you can go.'"


Sergeant
was never arrested and never charged with a crime. He said the incident frightened and angered him, but he was determined to fight back, and the next day filed a complaint against the officer involved.

In June, he received a letter from the department saying that his complaint had been upheld and that the officer "received multiple charges and was disciplined for the incident." The letter said the officer would receive retraining.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said she hopes the cases raises awareness of what she called illegal strip searches that are far more common than most people realize.

"The fact that this officer committed this act, and there are no circumstances under which the act that this officer committed could be lawful, and yet he was retained on the force makes it clear that there is a problem within that police department and a problem that we're seeing nationwide," Verheyden-Hilliard said.

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Full statement:


The City Of Laurel Denies Allegations Of Strip Search By Laurel Police

The City of Laurel has been notified of a lawsuit that was allegedly filed on July 30, 2015 in Federal Court. This lawsuit is based on a traffic stop that was conducted by a Laurel police officer in March 2014.

As of now, the City has not been served with any paperwork regarding a lawsuit or intent to sue, and we are only aware of the allegations contained in a press release from the attorneys representing the plaintiff in this case.

The City is restrained from further comment because of the due process afforded to the involved officers as well as the City's personnel policies. However, the City unequivocally denies that the traffic stop, which was initiated by a call about a suspicious vehicle was the result of any racial profiling, or that racism of any type was involved.

The City of Laurel and the Laurel Police Department also adamantly deny that the victim in this incident was strip searched, and his body exposed to public view by our officers.

An Internal Investigation was conducted and appropriate action was taken, including additional departmental wide training in the area of Search and Seizure.

At no time did the Laurel Police Department attempt to imply that there was no wrong doing by the officers.

The City is confident that as the case moves through the legal system the outrageous claims made by the attorneys in the press release will be shown to be just that—outrageous.

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