A traffic stop last year in New Jersey has triggered a firestorm of debate over how far cops are permitted to go while searching a suspect.
In video posted last Monday by open-government group New Jersey Libertarians for Transparency, a New Jersey State Police trooper can be seen in March 2017 conducting a personal body search of a 23-year-old man authorities claimed smelled like marijuana.
The man insisted several times throughout the video he had no marijuana, and questioned if the search by the officer was legal. At one point in the body camera video, the officer puts on latex gloves and searches the man's genital area.
"You better hope this is legal," the man yells. "Did you find it? Did you find it? Yo, you guys are really ridiculous."
No drugs were found in the man's car or his body, but he was issued a ticket for tailgating, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Now, the man has filed a notice of intent to sue, saying he was sexually assaulted in addition to having his civil rights violated.
John Paff, who heads the open-government group, obtained the video after coming across the driver's legal filing when checking the court docket and filing an open public records request in January.
“It was extreme, in my view, because of the cavalier attitude, the way this cop acted,” Paff told the Inquirer. “This is outrageous.”
State Police told the Inquirer and NJ.com an internal investigation into the traffic stop is ongoing, and that the troopers involved, Joseph Drew and Andrew Whitmore, are still on active duty.
Officials did not disclose the agency's policy on searches, saying its not public record. Authorities also wouldn't say if the troopers followed policy, citing the ongoing investigation.
The man who was pulled over in the stop may have another obstacle ahead, because he filed his notice of claim on Jan. 22, which is after the 90-day statute of limitations, according to NJ.com. The man, who has not been identified since was not charged with a crime, may still file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.