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Public strip search by Oakland police costs city nearly $1 million

Oakland officers' decision to pull two men's pants down on a public street after they were stopped by police has cost the city about a million dollars.

The City Council voted 7-1 in closed session on Tuesday to pay the men's lawyers, civil rights attorneys John Burris and Michael Haddad, $832,000 in legal fees, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The money will come from city funds.

The lawyers represented Spencer Troy Lucas and Kirby Bradshaw, who were awarded $245,000 in damages in their federal civil rights lawsuit against the city last year.

A judge found that Officer Ingo Mayer pulled the men's Cadillac over in December 2005 for no apparent reason and then handcuffed and detained Lucas.

Mayer then undid Lucas's belt buckle, causing his pants to fall down to his ankles and shook his boxers against his genitals after pulling them down half way, as he asked Lucas whether he had drugs, according to U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's findings. Bradshaw experienced similar treatment.

Lucas testified that a small crowd gathered while his pants were down.

Bradshaw was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Lucas was taken into custody later on suspicion of violating parole.

The plaintiffs testified that they felt humiliated by the searches, according to Patel.

The judge ordered the city to pay $105,000 in compensatory damages to Lucas and $100,000 to Bradshaw.

She also ordered Mayer to pay $25,000 to Lucas and $15,000 to Bradshaw. Mayer, who has since retired on disability, has asked the city to pay him for the $40,000 award, according to court records.

Stephen Bundy, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said courts have upheld attorneys' fees that are greater than the award the plaintiffs received, as in Lucas and Bradshaw's case.

"Sometimes courts have been prepared to justify those fee awards on the grounds that the prosecution of the case advanced an important public interest," he said.

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