A Florida police officer who asked a woman to lift her shirt, bearing her midriff, and shake out her bra during a traffic stop is being investigated for the “highly questionable” and “demeaning” search method, the Ledger, a Lakeland newspaper, reported.
Zoe Brugger was pulled over by Lakeland Police Officer Dustin Fetz on May 21 for driving with a broken headlight. She was then found to be driving without a valid license as well. But the Ledger reported State Attorney Investigator Mike Brown’s report saying what happened during the stop was a violation of Brugger’s constitutional rights
Here’s what occurred:
Fetz escorted Brugger behind the vehicle, where he asked her to lift her shirt to and shake out her bra. Brugger didn’t want to perform the act, Brown wrote, but she felt threatened and wanted to go home to her newborn child. She didn’t sense his request was sexual, but Brown wrote that she “believed he was on a power trip and had it in his mind that they had drugs.”
Fetz persisted in asking for consent to search the vehicle.
Brugger then relented, wanting to go home. Then she changed her mind before Fetz could start the search. But he proceeded anyway, searching the vehicle for 10 minutes, even as she shouted for him to stop. Video of the traffic stop shows Fetz popping open the driver door as Brugger and Fields, who followed the officer’s orders, sit on the curb.
The officer’s dashcam picked up the incident as well. Watch the footage, which shows Brugger’s boyfriend being searched too:
The audio equipment during the stop was not enabled by Fetz, which is a violation of the department’s rules. Fetz said he left the equipment in the cruiser.
“Had the audio equipment been utilized, there would be little to no speculation as to what occurred during that traffic stop that evening,” Brown wrote in his report.
State Attorney Jerry Hill in a letter about the bra-shake, which Fetz said is a known technique, called it a “highly questionable search method [that] is not only demeaning, but is ineffective and possibly dangerous.” The Ledger explained it could be dangerous if the woman had a weapon under her shirt and could have used this opportunity to retrieve it.
The Ledger reported retired lawyer Richard Wiley saying “what happened is an abomination.”
Officer Jeremy Williams, who arrived on the scene later as backup for Fetz, according to the Ledger, said in Brown’s report that he believed the search was improper.
Fetz was searching for illegal drugs, which the Ledger reported Brown’s report saying he acknowledged his attempt to find drugs or other contraband was “overzealous.” No illegal items were found in the search and Brugger and her boyfriend were allowed to go home.
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