A couple humiliated as they are sent to jail half naked is to sue the Police responsible for it.
Two Portland Police officers humiliated a 47-year-old woman when they arrested her, half-naked, at her home and drove her to jail despite her multiple pleas for clothing to cover her lower body, her attorney said in federal court today.
Sherrie Sandau had been in bed and was wearing only a tank top and T-shirt, with no underwear or pants, when she was handcuffed in front of her home. She was escorted to a police car and driven to jail around 6:30 on the morning of the July 2005 incident.
At the jail, an employee further embarrassed her by lifting her shirt and remarking, “Oh, no pants” before she was given clothing, attorney Clay McCaslin said in opening statements today in front of U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman.
The police officers’ actions violated Sandau’s constitutional rights, McCaslin said, adding that she was arrested after a neighbor complained that Sandau had been making noise several times during the night. Sandau suffers post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident, he said. The lawsuit seeks nearly $750,000 in damages.
In addition, the lawsuit also names the city of Portland as a defendant, alleging that one of the officers, John A. Wood, was relying on its policy allowing warrantless entries into homes when he entered Sandau’s Northeast Portland home for a non-emergency situation.
The lawsuit names Wood and Portland Police Officer Christopher Cass as defendants in addition to the city of Portland.
Cass remains on the force, but Wood is no longer an officer. He resigned in 2006 after pleading guilty to two counts of official misconduct stemming from allegations that he made a traffic stop and told the two women inside to lift their skirts and show him their underwear or he would take them to jail for driving under the influence. The women sued and the city of Portland settled the two cases in 2009 for about $105,000.
But attorneys for the defendants said the police officers’ actions were justified.
Sandau was combative, her eyes appeared bloodshot and Wood could smell alcohol, said his attorney, Karen O’Casey, when he first spoke with her about the neighbor’s complaints. Wood also heard Sandau yell out at the neighbor, after he had just cautioned her about her noise. The arrest occurred the second time Wood went to her home and after Wood had summoned mental health workers and a backup officer, Cass.
O’Casey, who has been retained by the city to represent the former officer, also showed a photo of Sandau in the tank top which appeared to reach to the mid-thigh area. She said despite Sandau’s request for clothes, Wood did not want to free the handcuffed woman and did not feel comfortable going into Sandau’s home and “rifle through her drawers” to get her clothes.
The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages against the two men “to send a message to them and their fellow police officers that their conduct was a serious breach of the standards that we hold them to in this community.”
The trial is expected to last four days.