Police officers in a New Mexico town who forced suspects to undergo multiple, forced anal cavity searches are still on the job despite their questionable behavior, according to Watchdog.org.
In January, the town of Deming and Hidalgo County settled a
lawsuit for $1.6 million over the case of David Eckert.
Pulled over for a minor traffic violation, Eckert was flagged for
holding drugs by a K-9 unit, which would later be found to be
operating under expired certification. Police suspected Eckert
was carrying drugs in his anal cavity and sought out a search
warrant, but then transported the man to a hospital outside of
the warrant’s jurisdiction when the first establishment refused
to conduct the search on ethical grounds.
At Gila Regional Medical Center, however, doctors performed eight
separate medical procedures against Eckert’s protests, including
two rectal finger examinations, three enemas and a colonoscopy.
He was also forced to defecate in front of doctors and police
officers. None of these procedures uncovered any drugs.
According to Eckert’s lawyer Shannon Kennedy, not only was the
issued search warrant overly broad and lacking in probable cause,
but it was also only valid in Luna County, where Deming is
located and Eckert was arrested.
After the first hospital refused to perform the anal search,
police took Eckert to Gila, which is located in a separate county
altogether. If that is the case, then doctors performed all eight
To make matters worse, the search warrant expired at 10 p.m.
while doctors didn’t even begin prepping Eckert for the
colonoscopy until 1 a.m. the next morning, when the warrant had
been expired for hours.
But Eckert’s story wasn’t
an isolated incident. According to police reports, a man
named Timothy Young was also stopped by police after a minor
traffic violation. The same unlicensed K-9 dog, Leo, sniffed
drugs on his seat, causing police to seek a warrant to search
Young’s body for illegal substances, KOB TV reported.
Just like Eckert, Young was taken to Gila Regional Medical
Center, located in a county not covered by the search warrant,
where doctors performed medical procedures, including finger
exams of his anus and an X-Ray of his stomach. Young did not
consent to the examinations. Again, no drugs were discovered in
The Eckert lawsuit listed three Deming Police Department
officers, three members of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office,
as well as the doctors and the hospital involved. The three city
cops are still listed as active duty, New Mexico Watchdog
In a phone interview with NM
Watchdog, Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante wouldn’t say
why they are still active or if they were disciplined. “That
is a personnel matter,” he said. (After the Eckert incident,
he told KOB,
“We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and
protocols that we have in place.”)
The Hidalgo County sheriff did not return NM Watchdog’s phone
calls, and the status of the three officers is unclear.
Hildalgo County Commissioner Darr Shannon told NM Watchdog,
“I don’t know [about the status of the officers]. I hate to
admit it, but I don’t know anything … A county commissioner
cannot have anything to do with personnel matters.”
The county commission chair, Ed “Bim” Kerr wouldn’t speak with NM
Watchdog, referring questions to the county manager, Jose
Salazar. Salazar then referred questions to the county’s
attorney, Damian Martinez, who also refused to comment.