Staff Editorial: Supreme Court ruling on strip-search procedures threatens rights of all U.S. citizens

In a federal ruling that passed 5-to-4 on Monday April 2, the United States Supreme Court made a decision that violates the rights of all American citizens. We at The Lamron strongly oppose this decision to allow strip-searches of people that are arrested for any offense.

The ruling does not require strip-searches. The strip-search of any person arrested for an offense, however, now relies on a personal judgment from the arresting officials. The offense does not have to be related to weapons or drugs. Officers are no longer required to have reasonable suspicion of weapons or drugs in places that allowed strip-searches.

Paranoia of major crimes has certainly influenced support for the decision. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy supported this decision, saying, “People detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.” Supporters of the ruling point to Timothy McVeigh, one of the individuals involved in the Oklahoma City Bombing, as an example of a criminal that could have been stopped if he had been searched when arrested for a minor offense.

But the statistics do not agree. Multiple media sources have cited a study done in Orange County, New York using 23,000 strip-searched participants. No more than one was found to have illegal contraband that would not have been found by less invasive measures. The more invasive measures will be used without garnering the intended results.

Even with a sincere and wholehearted trust in the correctional officers of our country, it is hard not to imagine the potential for abuse. Both intentional discrimination and subconscious prejudices against gender, sexual orientation, religion and race would influence which people will be subject to strip-searches. Who will be there when a single prejudiced police officer decides that a black man deserves to strip-searched, but not a white man for the same offense? What about the attractive 18-year-old female who gets pulled over and strip-searched for “speeding?” All it takes is one.

Policy supporters will say that the possible effects are overdramatic: the attractive 18-year-old female won’t really be arrested for speeding and be liable to strip searches. But by this new policy it is within the legal rights of the correctional officer. It could happen, and it could happen to family members, friends and neighbors for minor offenses.

And it has happened before. A Catholic nun, Sister Bernie Galvin, was strip-searched after being arrested at an anti-war protest in 2003. Minor offenses such as driving with a noisy muffler and riding a bicycle without an audible bell have also led to strip-searchers, as cited by Justice Stephen G. Breyer from briefs submitted to the Supreme Court.

The Lamron is appalled that the Supreme Court decided to revoke constitutional protections built into the Fourth Amendment. We believe that every American’s civil rights have been violated.