Glynn County Police Chief, officers reprimanded after body cavity search of shoplifting suspect

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. – Several Glynn County Police Department employees have been disciplined in connection to a body cavity search for drugs on a shoplifting suspect in February. The Glynn County public safety director said they did not follow protocol.

The District Attorney’s Office found the officers involved did not act criminally. However, an internal review found they broke police department policy, and they were reprimanded.

After being pulled over on Interstate 95, a shoplifting suspect told law enforcement she was carrying a 14 grams of methamphetamine “inside her person,” police said.

According to a spokesperson for Glynn County Police, drug paraphernalia was found on the suspect. Police said the suspect showed signs of “stress” and “duress,” and officers on the scene decided to immediately try to remove the drugs she claimed she had concealed through a body cavity search because they were concerned for her health.

Police reports say it appears the suspect vomited and said the drugs were burning her.

An internal investigative report shows a female officer performed two body cavity searches in an attempt to remove meth from the woman’s genital area, but they didn’t find any drugs. According to police records, the search was conducted while the suspect was wearing shorts and not in view of the public. Police records say the woman was then sent to the hospital before being booked into jail.

The police department’s policy said body cavity searches should only be conducted by a doctor with the written permission of the watch commander when a search warrant has been issued and that only people of the same sex are to be present during the search.

Police were initially called to a report of shoplifting from an Academy Sports store in Brunswick. According to the Glynn County Police Department, the woman who was searched was in the passenger seat of one of two cars driving off with stolen merchandise.

A spokesperson with the GBI said Glynn County Interim Police Chief O’Neal Jackson contacted them about the incident, but the GBI responded that they don’t conduct internal investigations for other law enforcement agencies unless there’s something criminal involved.

Records Jackson and another officer received a written reprimand while the female officer, who conducted the search at the direction of the other officer under the supervision of Jackson, received a verbal reprimand.

News4JAX Crime and Safety Analyst Lakesha Burton said while it appears the police department took quick action to follow up on this important matter, they could still be at risk of a civil lawsuit.

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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter