Army Veteran Subjected to Intrusive Body Search By Detroit Police Settles Case

DETROIT—The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced today that it has settled its lawsuit against the City of Detroit on behalf of an army veteran who was subjected to an illegal and intrusive body search by two police officers at a local gas station. The settlement comes on the same day that a trial was set to begin.

“It is clear that justice prevailed today,” said Mark Fancher, ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project Staff Attorney. “The law simply does not allow such extreme and egregious conduct by the police. We are hopeful that this settlement sends a clear message statewide that no law enforcement agency should tolerate such demeaning behavior.”

In June 2006, Elvis Ware was seated in his car at a local gas station when he was approached by two Detroit police officers, Michael Parish and Michael Osman. Parish approached Ware’s car and forcibly removed him, handcuffed him and began an intrusive search. During the search, Parish shoved his bare hand down Ware’s pants and squeezed his genitals and then attempted to stick a bare finger into Ware’s anus. Following the body cavity search and a search of his car, the police released him. The ACLU of Michigan filed the case on behalf of Ware in federal court in March 2007.

In the settlement, the City of Detroit has agreed to instruct officers on the proper search procedures by reading them at roll call one day a month for three months. In addition, the city will pay an undisclosed amount in damages.

“We trust police officers in our community to be the guardians of justice,” said Melissa El, ACLU of Michigan Cooperating Attorney. “And when they falter, we should trust their superiors to step in and make sure that the laws are being followed. By settling this case, the City of Detroit has done just that.”

Unfortunately, Ware’s experience was not an isolated incident. Numerous victims and community members have publically complained that Officers Parish and Osman have arbitrarily stopped African American men and conducted side of the road strip and body cavity searches without warrants, probable cause or any reasonable suspicion

“I feel vindicated by this settlement. I not only wanted justice for myself, but I wanted it for others who were treated this way,” said Elvis Ware. “My only hope is that this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If, by coming forward, I prevent just one person from having to go through this, I have succeeded.”

Ware is represented by ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Kevin M. Carlson, Melissa El and Michael L. Pitt, along with ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary L. Moss, Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg and Racial Justice Staff Attorney Mark P. Fancher.

To read the complaint, click here

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