Hidalgo County and the city of Deming may have to pay $1.6 million to settle with a Lordsburg man who filed a lawsuit after he was forced to undergo anal cavity searches and a colonoscopy. Officials in the two southern New Mexico communities refuse to say whether the police officers involved in the searches are still on the job.

Telephone messages left by New Mexico Watchdog to Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante and Hidalgo County Sheriff Saturino Madero have gone unreturned, as has a voicemail message for Darr Shannon, chairwoman of the Hidalgo County Commission.

Last week, the lawyer for 64-year-old David Eckert said a portion of the lawsuit was settled; Eckert will get $950,000 from Deming and $650,000 from Hidalgo County.

Eckert named three Deming police officers and three Hidalgo County Sheriff’s officers in his lawsuit, but it’s not known whether the officers have even been disciplined. The case sparked outrage across the country and made headlines around the world.

“This case took my breath away,” said Jonathan Turley, a nationally recognized legal scholar and professor at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

“If officers are not fired for this level of abuse, particularly after such a huge settlement in damages, it sends a rather chilling message. It suggests that there is no abuse that will cost an officer his or her job.”

More settlements may be coming.

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