Officials question bra-shaking police search

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LAKELAND, Florida (WFLA) – An investigative report from the Florida State Attorney calls the actions of a Lakeland Police officer during a traffic stop “egregious” and “demeaning.”

The report from State Attorney Jerry Hill details what happened to driver Zoe Brugger on May 21. Lakeland Police officer Dustin Fetz initially stopped Brugger and her boyfriend, Larry Fields, saying the Toyota they were in had a headlight out.

The investigation revealed that Officer Fetz suspected Brugger might have been carrying drugs, so he asked her to “pull her shirt up, pull her bra out from her breasts, and to shake.”

“He made me go through the whole humiliating ordeal with shaking my bra out right there in the middle of this parking lot on Beacon Road,” Brugger said. “He told me that he was taking me to Bartow Jail for driving on a suspended license and that they had an x-ray machine there and they were definitely going to find what I had hidden inside me there.”

The officer never found any drugs.

The report, filed by Investigator Mike Brown says “the actions of Officers Fetz were egregious and went beyond the police actions that are permissible under the law.” He also added “his actions violated the constitutional rights afforded to Zoe Brugger.”

State Attorney Jerry Hill followed up the investigation by writing a letter to Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack.

“The conclusions of this report should be alarming to you as chief and to Lakeland citizens,” Hill wrote. “Clearly, there is a serious lack of training and supervision in the area of traffic stops.”

He goes on to say that, while the officer’s actions did not rise to the level of criminal misconduct, they raise serious concerns.

“Even more alarming, the officer’s conduct in this case is not an isolated incident, but appears to be accepted practice,” Hill writes. “Two law enforcement officers indicated that the technique employed … is a common practice used among officers employed by the Lakeland Police Department.”

Brugger says Officer Fetz did not have consent or reasonable cause to search the vehicle she was driving, but did so anyway.

What did he say about the incident?

“He couldn’t recall ever being formally trained on this technique at the police academy or through the LPD,” the state attorney report states. “It is a practice that he believed other officers use as well, but one that he has utilized to find drugs on individuals in the past. He also did not think it was approved in LPD policies.”

The state attorney turned over the information in the report to The Lakeland Police Department for internal review action.

“After the Lakeland Police Department became aware of the allegations against Officer Fetz, and prior to receiving a complaint from the victim, an internal investigation was initiated,” read a written statement from LPD. “Chief Womack takes these matters very seriously and the department will conduct a thorough investigation into the allegation.”

It goes on to say they cannot discuss any information about an open, active administrative investigation because of Florida Statutes outlining the police officer bill of rights.

 

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