The decade-long fight over jailhouse strip searches of anti-war demonstrators in San Francisco may finally produce some money for the victims of the searches. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on Monday ordered all those subject to strip searches between April 2002 and January 2004 to be notified of the $470,000 deal with the city.
San Francisco agreed to settle back on March 20 with political activist Mary Bull and other protesters who were arrested while demonstrating on Market Street in November 2002. She was charged with vandalism but repeatedly refused to sign consent forms to be strip searched at the jail.
Former Sheriff Michael Hennessey had a policy of strip-searching every arrestee to find contraband that might be smuggled into the jail.
Monday’s order requires San Francisco to notify all class members, with $10,000 to $20,000 set aside for that expense. In addition, the class will share in a settlement of $450,000.
Bull and other arrestees, who were not charged with any violent crimes, use of drugs or crimes involving weapons, were nonetheless subjected to blanket visual body cavity search prior to arraignment. The lawsuit alleged, in addition, those accused of violation of parole or probation were also subjected to similar strip searches without any reasonable suspicion they were concealing contraband, according to the lawsuit.
Hennessey ended the policy in 2004, replacing it with an order for deputies to strip-search only those arrestees suspected of carrying contraband.
Bull describing being forced into a cold room by male and female deputies, her clothes pulled off and strip-searched, then left without clothes for 24 hours, according to the complaint. In addition, she said she was denied food and water during the 24 hours. She also said deputies would smash a baton repeatedly against the metal door of her “cold room” door every few minutes preventing her from sleep or rest.
Case: Bull v. City & County of San Francisco, No. 03-cv-1840CRB.