Shore girl's suit alleges 3-hour ordeal after arrest

September 22, 1994|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Eastern Shore Bureau of The Sun

EASTON -- A black Hurlock teen-ager charges in a federal lawsuit that police in the Eastern Shore town arrested and detained her for three hours March 15, subjecting her to interrogation and a strip search before taking mug shots and allowing her to return home with her mother. She was never charged.

The suit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by the American Civil Liberties Union, also alleges that police threatened to arrest the girl, who was 15, if they saw her "hanging around with the wrong people."

Named as defendants are the town itself, Mayor Donald W. Bradley and Police Chief Wendell C. Travers. The suit alleges gender and race discrimination and false imprisonment.

The two officials and the town also were named in a civil rights lawsuit that was filed in April 1993 and is still pending. Among other issues, the 1993 suit alleges that the chief encouraged NTC officers to solicit sex from women under arrest and routinely violated the civil rights of others in custody in exchange for agreements to avoid criminal charges.

Mr. Bradley said yesterday he was not involved in the arrest of the 15-year-old girl and is named in the suit only because he is mayor of the small Dorchester County town.

"I had nothing to do with it and I never met the person," he said. "This is the price you pay [for being mayor]." Chief Travers was on vacation and unavailable for comment, according to town police.

The suit alleges that the teen-ager was detained after police found drugs inside a car in which she had been sitting in downtown Hurlock. Police arrested and charged the driver. Male youths standing nearby were searched on the spot before they were allowed to leave. But the suit alleges that the girl was taken to the police station so a female officer trainee could conduct a strip search.

The suit alleges that the girl was not allowed to call her mother or leave the police station. Her mother went to the station after learning from a friend that her daughter had been arrested.

After the mother arrived and told officers the girl was 15, police said the teen-ager could leave if she consented to having her photograph taken. The mother allowed the mug shots because, according to the suit, she feared a refusal would result in her daughter having to stay in jail overnight. With Chief Travers present, police warned the teen-ager she would be arrested again if she associated "with the wrong people," the suit alleges.

Deborah A. Jeon, ACLU lawyer, said yesterday's suit might not have been filed had the town addressed concerns she detailed in May in a letter to local officials about the alleged incident. "Originally, all we wanted was an apology," Ms. Jeon said. "They didn't do a thing."

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