PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department is now under fire once again. A notice of claim alleges officers unlawfully assaulted a woman during a body cavity search.
The woman is now planning to sue Phoenix PD for more than $12 million.
Last year, the day after Christmas, Erica Reynolds was stopped by police after they said a wiretap showed she bought drugs from a known dealer.
Despite a search at the traffic stop, no drugs were found. According to information provided by the Phoenix Police Department, Reynolds was brought to the South Mountain Precinct.
In her notice of claim, Reynolds states a female officer used a gloved hand and searched inside her rectum and vagina for drugs, but did not find anything. The result of the search led to Reynolds bleeding, according to the notice of claim.
Phoenix police policy has strict guidelines for strip searches.
According to their own operational orders, a strip search may only be conducted under the following conditions:
1. Permission from the rank of a lieutenant or higher is obtained.
2. The strip search must be reasonable and justification should be documented.
3. Only an officer who is of the same sex as the suspect will conduct a strip search.
Policy further stipulates that the person conducting the strip search must limit it to a visual one only, and "Officers will not insert fingers into a prisoner's body cavities at any time."
The only time physical intrusion is allowed is when there is a search warrant, and then only by a medical doctor.
Phoenix public information officer Mercedes Fortune told 12 News the woman officer was suspended for 40 hours for violating policy by inserting her fingers into Reynolds.
"I've never been touched in a way I didn’t want to be touched,” Reynolds said in a January Facebook Live video.
According to the notice of claim, after the alleged search, Reynolds would go to the Maricopa Medical Center to get a rape kit done.
“Do you know what it feels like to ask somebody you need a rape test because you have been tampered with?” Reynolds said.
According to a notice of claim, Phoenix police refused to authorize the rape kit.
According to police documents, after the search was performed, Reynolds would call the dealer (whose phone was wiretapped) and said, "They didn't get that s---. I'm quicker than that, I keep telling y'all."
On Feb. 6, 2019, Reynolds was supposed to speak at a city council meeting and tell her story, according to Facebook posts in the notice of claim.
That morning, Reynolds was arrested by police. In the interview, she confesses to stuffing Oxycontin pills in her vagina on Dec. 26. Reynolds' attorneys said in the notice of claim they called multiple police departments including Phoenix police to see if their client was in their custody.
They would not learn she was in police custody until finding officers posted outside of Reynolds hospital room. Reynolds' attorneys said the conditions of the interview led to a coerced confession.
“Somebody has to be held accountable for this," her attorneys said.
Reynolds was again arrested on Feb. 6, the same day as a city council meeting where she had intended to tell her story.
The police report from that arrest shows she admitted to buying drugs in December, but her attorney claims her admission was coerced.