District Attorney will not request GBI investigation of GPD roadside strip search


SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Marie Broder has determined her office will not request a GBI investigation of an August 2021 Griffin Police Department (GPD) CAGE Unit traffic stop that resulted in the public roadside strip search of a female occupant.

The initial alleged offense was failure to obey a traffic control device, with Sgt. John Kelton alleging the driver stopped beyond the white stripe.

To protect the woman’s identity, The GRIP will not identify any of the occupants involved in the traffic stop.

According to Broder, GPD CAGE Unit Officer Alyssa Hanson had no criminal intent in the search.

“For every crime, we have to be able to prove that there was intent and since she was trained that way, she had no criminal intent,” Broder said, later adding, “I can’t justify charging Hanson with a crime when that’s how she was trained by them.”

Broder later said that a state regulatory agency is investigating the strip search incident.

“She (Hanson) did not violate the policy. That’s how she was trained. There’s no reason to call in the GBI because POST is investigating that part of it (the training and policy),” Broder said.

POST Deputy Executive Director Chris Harvey on Friday said that agency has not initiated an investigation of this CAGE Unit incident, and that it has not yet been determined whether such an investigation will take place.

Harvey said records related to the August 2021 incident that will be reviewed to reach that decision have been requested – but not yet received – from the city of Griffin.

Broder declined to specify the source of the alleged GPD officer training she referenced.

“The City (sic) or the Chief would have to answer that question,” Broder said.

Griffin City Manager Jessica O’Connor was asked to address the GPD strip search training.

“That’s something I can’t answer right now,” O’Connor said.

GPD Chief Mike Yates was also asked to respond to questions regarding the agency’s strip search training and policy.

Because the GPD policy does not specify what is considered a strip search, Yates was asked for that procedure’s definition.

Yates said he was unaware of any definition specific to the GPD, but added, “I would suggest you consult with Webster or Wikipedia for the common definition.”

Yates was later asked how GPD officers are trained to conduct strip searches.

“Are they (GPD officers) advised, as you advised me, to consult Webster or Wikipedia for the meaning of a strip search or are they provided specific information on how it is to be conducted?” The GRIP asked.

“We are not commenting on anything related to this issue at this time,” Yates responded. “You may contact the City (sic) attorney if you wish.”

Hanson’s body worn camera recorded her fully exposing the woman’s breasts. The officer’s recording also showed her pulling down her pants to fully expose her buttocks and rearranging the front of the woman’s pants so that she could insert her hand and physically run it over the woman’s external genitalia as she searched for suspected narcotics.

This was all done in view of the vehicle’s two male occupants as well as several male GPD CAGE Unit officers and personnel of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office who assisted in the search of the vehicle.

Deputy Jennifer Fuller, a K9 handler assigned to the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Uniform Patrol Division, performed the K9 deployment that resulted in the strip search.

One male CAGE Unit officer is heard on the recording making a derogatory remark about the woman’s body.

Despite assertions that the public, roadside strip search Hanson conducted was in accordance with GPD policy, a review of the relevant GPD Standard Operating Procedure raises questions.

That strip search policy, located in GPD SOP Chapter 2, entitled Limits of Authority, states in its entirety:

2.1.8 STRIP SEARCHES

1. Individuals arrested for traffic violations and other minor offenses of non-violent nature shall not be subject to strip searches unless the arresting officer has articulable, reasonable suspicion to believe that the individual is concealing contraband or weapons. Reasonable suspicion may be based upon, but is not limited to, one or more of the following criteria:

 The nature of the offense charged

 The circumstances surrounding the arrest

 The arrestee’s criminal record, particularly past crimes of violence and narcotic offenses

 The discovery of evidence of a major offense in plain view or in the course of a search incident to arrest.

 Detection of suspicious objects beneath the suspects’ clothing during a field search incident to arrest.

2. Field strip searches of prisoners shall be conducted only in the rarest of and under exigent circumstances where the life of officers or others may be placed at risk, and only with the explicit approval of a supervising officer.

3. Where articulable, reasonable suspicion exists to conduct a strip search, the arresting officer shall make a request for such action to their immediate supervisor. The officer will indicate in their supplemental report the basis for suspicion, who conducted the search, who witnessed the search and the results.

4. At no time will an officer participate in the strip search of a prisoner of the opposite sex. The search will be conducted in a private location when possible.

5. When authorized by a supervisor, strip searches may be conducted only:

 By the leas number of personnel necessary and only by those of the same sex.

 Under conditions that provide privacy from all except those authorized to conduct the search.

6. Following a strip search, the office performing the search, or arresting officer requesting the search from the intake facility, shall file a detailed supplemental report concerning their actions, at a minimum, the following should be included:

 Date and place of search

 Identity of the officer conducting the search

 Identity of the individual searched

 Those present during the search

 A detained description of the nature and extent of the search

 Any weapons, evidence or contraband found during the search

The search of this vehicle and its three occupants did not result in the discovery of any illegal narcotics or weapons, and no arrests were made.

All of the GPD officers involved in this incident remain assigned to the CAGE Unit.

CORRECTION – Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jennifer Fuller, the K9 handler who deployed the K9 that alerted on the vehicle involved in this traffic stop resulting in the public, roadside strip search of a female occupant, is not assigned to the SCSO STING Unit. Fuller was at one time a member of that specialized unit, but she had been transferred to the Uniform Patrol Division prior to this Aug. 1, 2021, incident.
The GRIP apologizes for this error and any confusion it may have caused.

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Comments

  1. Wth? If it’s their policy to expose peoples bodies and make derogatory comments then their policies seem like they are in violation of a person’s civil rights and need to be changed. Jeez how humiliating the person being searched experience must have been. That just isn’t right. Seems like there should be some kind of sexual assault charge for the officers involved.

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