Newsbrief: Colorado Drug Task Force Sued Over Methamphetamine "Decontamination" Public Stripping 4/30/04

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Barbara Adriaenes, 39, of suburban Denver admits she sometimes used methamphetamine. She concedes that she was in possession of a small personal amount of the drug when the Metro North Drug Task Force broke in her window and kicked in her door as she was studying for an art class one morning last year. But she denies that she was cooking meth in a home lab, and police concede as much -- they found no lab, no toxic chemicals. So why did they force her to strip naked in the parking lot of her condo behind a windblown tarp that only intermittently hid her from ground level observers and left her fully exposed to upper floor residents, not to mention the three male officers and two female officers ogling her from inside the tarp's perimeter as part of a "meth lab decontamination procedure"?

That's what Adriaenes and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado intend to find out. To do so, they have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the task force charging that the raid itself, the nude decontamination in a public place, and the presence of a private party who videotaped the entire proceedings at the invitation of the police were all violations of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for Adriaenes' humiliating experience.

Adriaenes was handcuffed in her condo's garage while police searched her home, the lawsuit narrated, then instructed to remove her clothes, bend over twice, and rinse her entire body in front of gawking cops and neighbors, even though police had detected no presence of meth labs or associated chemicals. "She was humiliated at the thought that her neighbors could see her naked. She felt like she wanted to die," the lawsuit said. "As she began to comply with the order to remove her clothes, she screamed that someone should 'call the cops.'"

"We are the cops," a detective replied, and several officers laughed.

"She felt as if she was being raped," the lawsuit said. "She started to go numb inside and felt she was going into darkness. She wanted to be dead," the lawsuit said. "Plaintiff was crying and shaking, dizzy with fear, anxiety and humiliation."

"This case presents one more example of how the War on Drugs has become a war on the Constitution and basic human rights," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director.

"Because of the possibility of toxic and volatile chemicals, suspected meth labs are often treated as hazardous material sites," Silverstein said. "Before taking drug lab suspects into custody, law enforcement officers routinely force them to strip naked and submit to a 'decontamination' procedure, often without adequate respect for their privacy or basic human dignity. But in this case, the search team had already determined that there was no meth lab and no dangerous fumes. There was no legitimate law enforcement or public safety purpose that could possibly justify subjecting our client to this emotionally painful, embarrassing, degrading, and pointless ritual."

The Metro North Drug Task Force did not respond to requests for comment from local media. The task force, which includes officers from Adams County, Brighton, Broomfield, Commerce City, Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster, was last heard from in these pages when it unsuccessfully attempted to seize book purchase records from legendary Denver bookseller the Tattered Cover in another meth case (

Like its counterpart a few hundred miles to the southeast, the Texas Panhandle Drug Task Force, Metro North must be an example of those bad drug task forces giving all those good drug task forces a bad name. Let's hope that even if they don't learn their lesson, they do pay out the nose for it. Then maybe the good taxpayers of suburban Denver will have something to say.

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Issue #335, 4/30/04 Announcing: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War" -- New Compendium by Sheriff Masters Features David Borden and Numerous Other Thinkers on Drug Policy | Peruvian Coca Growers' "March of Protest and Sacrifice" Reaches Lima as Government Seeks to Elevate Alternative Leadership | Like a Phoenix from the Ashes: Vancouver's "Pot Block" Rebounds from Weekend Arson Fire | There You Go Again, Joe: CASA Report Uses Suspect Science to Hype Teen Marijuana Menace | NORML 2004: Stroup to Retire, Lobbying the Hill, Initiative Excitement, Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Drug Czar, Media Campaign Well-Positioned to Influence November Elections | Newsbrief: FBI Was Looking for Dope, Not Terrorists, 9/11 Commission Says | Atlantic City Announces Needle Exchange Plans | Newsbrief: European Union Blocks Cannabis Exhibition | Newsbrief: New Web Site Compiles Judicial Opposition to Drug War | Newsbrief: Canadian Couple Appalled at Being Treated Like, Well, New Yorkers | Newsbrief: Albuquerque Cops Block 4-20 Event by Closing Park | Newsbrief: Colorado Drug Task Force Sued Over Methamphetamine "Decontamination" Public Stripping | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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