Shit’s getting real in New Mexico. There seems to be a lapse in what constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” in the Land of Enchantment.
A woman named Marlene Tapia is suing a New Mexico Department of Corrections Officer by the name of Blanca Zapater for an incident that transpired during a suspected parole violation in 2011. Tapia claims that when Officer Zapater and another officer found what appeared to be a plastic bag protruding from Tapia’s vagina in the midst of a strip search, Zapater sprayed Tapia’s genitals with pepper spray. Tapia claims she was not resisting in any way and that the assault on her genitals was without warning and without cause.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a federal lawsuit on Tapia’s behalf last week, seeking punitive damages.
Also, in the state most famous for UFO crash sites:
David Eckhert of Deming basically ran past a parking lot stop sign at Wal*Mart, and was subsequently pulled over by Deming police. The police officer who pulled him over noted that it looked like “clenching his buttocks” and called in a drug dog, since apparently in New Mexico, clenched butt cheeks means you’re hiding drugs. The dog acted funny (which drug dogs typically do) and the police subsequently detained Eckhert and obtained a warrant to search his anus.
The first hospital the officers took Eckhert to refused to perform the search on Eckhert, citing that it was unethical for them to do so without Eckhert’s consent. With Eckhert still not consenting to the search, the officers took him to Gila Regional Medical Center, where they began to 14-hour nightmare that was to befall David Eckhert.
Also, keep in mind, the warrant issued for the cavity search was only valid in Grant County (where Deming is), but the Gila Regional Medical Center is in the town of Silver City, which itself is in Luna County. So, not only are the Deming police forcing an anal examination upon Eckhert (who, after further thought, probably just had to poop as he was leaving Wal*Mart), but they’re forcing forcing the anal examination on Eckhert in a location that is out of jurisdiction. Oh man, this story just gets better and better.
So, the staff at Gila Regional Medical Center began the 14-hour ordeal on Eckhert, which included an x-ray of his abdominal area (in which no drugs were found) and an anal examination with their fingers (which also found no drugs). With Eckhert still protesting the search, doctors decided that an enema was in order, and after having Eckhert shit-shower into a container, officers and doctors still found no drugs. Of course, still being convinced Eckhert was in possession, they decided that the best course of action is to give him another enema. Eckhert’s second shit-shower also produced nothing, so they did another abdominal x-ray, and when that proved to be no-dice, the staff at Gila Regional Medical Center sedated Eckhert (yes, put him the fuck under) and performed a colonoscopy. It was only then, when they once again hadn’t found any narcotics, that the officers and the staff at Gila Regional Medical Center let David Eckhert go.
Of course, this story isn’t over. Gila Regional Medical Center charged David Eckhert with the cost of all of the procedures they performed on him during the illegal search, and informed him that if he doesn’t pay, they will sent a collections department after him.
So, before we continue, give me a moment to collect myself…
Okay. So, let me start out by saying that police brutality is an all-too-common thing in American culture, especially when the suspicion of drugs are involved. What happened to Marlene Tapia is incredibly fucked up. Under no circumstance should pepper spraying genitals be okay, drug suspicion or not, and while I understand Marlene Tapia was more than likely stashing drugs in her box, that doesn’t give anyone the right to use pepper spray in that area of the body. Marlene Tapia was lucky enough to only have endured painful burns and irritation. The pepper spray could have done so much more damage to her genitals. Since there is no reason for the incident to have occurred, Blanca Zapater violated Marlene Tapia’s rights (which, to all staunch Conservatives to believe otherwise, she still has, despite the fact she’s part of the corrections system), and as such, should be forced to suffer the consequences of her actions.
As I’ve said many times before, there is a very real possibility that Zapater may have no repercussions from this ordeal, since people in the criminal justice system seem to be mostly-exempt from wrongdoing.
What’s more disturbing is the ordeal suffered by David Eckhert. Not only did the Deming police department use a void warrant to get several invasive procedures done on a man they only suspected of having narcotics in his possession, but said invasive procedures could have been potentially life-threatening, given the short time span in which they were done and how often they were done. I mean, they already had a doctor in their jurisdiction who said no on ethical grounds, so that apparently gives Deming police the right to take said warrant to another hospital? I don’t think so, especially since the warrant was useless at Gila Regional Medical Center. So, in this case, we have crooked cops and crooked doctors, who put a man’s life in jeopardy, found nothing, and then to add insult to injury, billed Eckhert and threatened to send collections after him if he didn’t pay. What a fucked up world.
Eckhert should have all of their credentials for this.
Let’s put this into some perspective. The War on Drugs has ushered in a wave of police brutality that absolutely needs to stop. It seems that whenever drugs are involved (or allegedly involved), Officer Hank and Officer Leroy always go to great lengths to “make sure the suspect does or does not have drugs”, which usually involves skirting the line between what ethical and legal and what’s unethical and illegal to come to their conclusion. Of course, as I mentioned before and as we all know, should Officer Hank and Officer Leroy be called out on their actions, the department will defend them with fervor. Officer Hank and Officer Leroy will be placed on “administrative leave”, which means they sit at their desks, with pay, while the situation runs it’s course. Chances are, Officer Hank and Officer Leroy will be back out on the beat, patrolling the neighborhoods with FOX camera crews in about a month.
It doesn’t even have to necessarily be related to drugs. Police officers around the country get off all the time when it comes to things like excessive force, violence, illegal search and seizure, and hell, even things like sexual assault.
So, this is justice, huh? Cops can get away with shit that the everyday civilian cannot? Apparently so. If you don’t believe it, why not ask Jeremy Morse, the guys who killed Arthur McDuffie, or the government agents at Ruby Ridge. Or hell, better yet, why not ask the entire Houston, TX police department?
I know, normally I would go about things on The Zephyr Lounge with sharp wit, but when it comes to police brutality, all it does is piss me off. Especially when the incident is heinous and there hasn’t been any substantial story about these officers being held accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, in today’s America, it seems like you can get away with murder as long as you have a badge.
And people criticize me for not having a lot of faith in the police.