Victim Strip Searched and Injured By Alleged Police Brutality
By: Gerri L. Elder
Most of the time, when a person has been assaulted and the police are called, the ordeal does not end with the person that the police have been called to help being arrested. It may happen from time to time in certain situations, but generally it is not something that is expected. However, Hope Steffey says that no part of her unfortunate situation with the Stark County Sheriff's deputies in Canton, Ohio could have been anticipated.
A disturbing video obtained by Channel 3 News and posted on WYKC.com shows Steffey, 41, laying face down inside a jail cell with male and female deputies holding her down and removing all of her clothing in order to perform a strip search. During the video, Steffey can be heard screaming, crying out and pleading with them to stop.
Stark County sheriff's deputies arrested Steffey 15 months ago after her cousin called 911 to report that another cousin had assaulted Steffey. The caller asked for police assistance for Steffey.
When a deputy arrived at the scene, he asked Steffey for her identification. She was understandably upset, and mistakenly pulled the driver's license of her deceased sister out of her wallet and handed it to the officer. She had kept her sister's driver's license after her death as a keepsake.
The situation escalated when the deputy refused to give the driver's license back and according to Steffey, told her to "shut up about your dead sister." Steffey was arrested and taken to the Stark County Jail. She was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Steffey has filed a personal injury lawsuit in federal court alleging that she was a victim of police brutality and that the Stark County sheriff's deputies assaulted her and used excessive force when they conducted the strip search after her arrest, nearly causing her personal injury. Her personal injury lawyer says that although there was no forcible penetration during the incident, Steffey felt as if she were being raped. Her hands were in handcuffs behind her back as she was stripped naked by at least seven male and female deputies and jail employees.
The policy of the sheriff's department states that officers conducting a strip search must be of the same sex as the inmate who is subjected to the search. Therefore, Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson conveniently claims that what happened to Hope Steffey was not a strip search. The sheriff also denies that Steffey was assaulted after her arrest and says that no excessive force was used.
Swanson has told Channel 3 News that Steffey was asked to remove her clothing and refused. He says that her clothing was removed for her for her own safety. In a written response to Steffey's lawsuit, the sheriff also denies that the deputy ever told Steffey to shut up about her dead sister.
After she was stripped of her clothing, Steffey says that she was left naked in the jail cell for six hours and had to wrap her body in toilet paper in order to stay warm and maintain any modesty at all. According to her personal injury lawsuit, Steffey was unable to make a telephone call during that time and did not receive any medical treatment for the injuries she sustained during her arrest and strip search.
Steffey claims in her lawsuit that she sustained injuries including a cracked tooth and bruising during the ordeal, and was left with a bulging disc in her back.
This personal injury case is likely to play out in court rather than be settled outside of court. Sheriff Swanson denies the allegations in Steffey's lawsuit and says that the truth will come out in court. However, there is a lot of truth contained in the video footage of the strip search as well, so perhaps Swanson will reconsider the facts of the case before it goes before a jury.