A woman has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Baltimore, its police department, several officers and officials, and the state of Maryland, claiming her constitutional rights were violated during an illegal strip search nearly three years ago.
The woman, who lives in Baltimore, is seeking $5 million in damages “for lost wages and benefits, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life,” as well as lawyers’ fees and other costs incurred as a result of the incident.
As part of the suit, the woman seeks better training of Baltimore Police Department officers to prevent unlawful strip searches from happening again.
“The lack of oversight on behalf of the higher-ups at the Baltimore Police Department led to the culture where officers knew they could conduct strip searches with impunity,” one of the woman’s lawyers, Jason Downs, of Downs Collins, said Wednesday.
The suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore names an array of defendants: the police department, former BPD officer Marcos Paul, former police commissioner Kevin Davis, unknown police supervisors, the mayor and City Council, and the state of Maryland, which controls the police department.
The plaintiff aims her accusations not just at the officer who searched her, but also at those who permitted a pattern of unlawful strip searches within the department.
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The suit argues that the BPD inadequately trained and supervised officers, allowing such scenarios to happen. It cites the 2016 Department of Justice report on the BPD, which stated that a review of the department’s internal affairs records found more than 60 complaints of illegal strip searches from 2011 to 2016 — complaints that internal affairs failed to investigate.
“Since at least 2011, the instances of unlawful strip searches had become so widespread and flagrant,” the lawsuit claims, “that in the proper exercise of its official responsibilities, Defendants BPD and Davis should have known of them.”
Police spokesman Jeremy Silbert said Wednesday that the department does not comment on pending litigation.
The woman was 20 years old and pregnant when she was stopped New Year’s Day 2016 on Greenspring Avenue near Willow Brook apartments. According to the suit, Marcos Paul, the officer who pulled her over, threatened her, unzipped her jacket, groped her breasts and pulled off her leggings. The suit says she believed he was going to rape her, and that Paul then followed her to her home on Greenspring Avenue and left without issuing her a ticket or citation.
After the incident, the woman’s sister called 911, and the woman reported what happened to the BPD. The woman later moved because she was terrified that the officer knew where she lived, according to the suit. After the incident, she claims, she was unable to function and lost her job.
It was not immediately clear when Paul left the department.
The Baltimore Sun does not name victims of alleged sexual assault.