Video footage has emerged that appears to show a male police officer touching a woman’s breasts repeatedly during an arrest.
In the 15-second clip, the officer can be seen running his hands over the woman’s chest twice as she repeatedly demands to be searched by a female officer instead.
The woman, 40-year-old Rosalinda Nuno Trevino from Austin, Texas, is handcuffed throughout the incident and can be seen attempted to move away from the officer’s grasp, only to be pushed back towards the police car.
You can watch the incident unfold below:
Despite repeatedly telling the officer, ‘I want a female officer,’ the man continues to search Trevino as the man filming the incident tells him: ‘Don’t you f*cking touch her like that,’ and ‘Get your f*cking hands off her.’
Since getting shared on Twitter, the video has sparked outrage among many who have described the incident as ‘sexual assault’, saying the officer’s actions were ‘disgusting’ and ‘horrible’.
The Austin Police Department (APD) has since issued a statement on Twitter, saying the officer in question advised Trevino a female officer wasn’t available while conducting his search.
The department also claimed the officer conducted the search as per APD policy, and shared several screenshots of the specific clauses which it says make the officer’s actions permissible.
According to APD policy, officers must conduct person searches with ‘dignity and courtesy’. Officers should also explain to the person they’re searching the reason for doing so, and ‘how the search will be conducted’.
In screenshots shared by the department, a number of guidelines must also be adhered to in instances where the person being searched is of a different gender to the officer.
The policy states:
When practical, an officer of the same gender should be called to the scene when officers believe the subject is concealing items in a sensitive area… This does not apply to items that pose an immediate threat to officer safety.
If a subject requests a search by an officer of the same gender, an attempt should be made [to do so]… If a same gender officer is unavailable, the search should be conducted in front of a Mobile Audio Video (MAV) recording system, if available, or a second officer should be present.
While the department claims the officer followed protocol, it’s unclear from the video alone whether he did or not. Regardless though, given the woman in the video appears visibly distressed and attempts to get away from his grip, many have said that even if his actions were permissible under protocol, they shouldn’t be.
Not only that, but many have disputed one specific part of the policy, which states officers must ‘use the backside of their hands and fingers to frisk/search sensitive areas of the opposite gender’, such as breasts.
‘The officer did the search incorrectly,’ one person wrote. ‘[He] used his thumb and hand rather than only using the complete backside of their hands in a respectful manner. He groped her.’
The APD has since responded to several tweets demanding that the officer be fired or have some sort of action taken against him, by posting the link to their full statement – which simply repeats the things posted to Twitter.
This simply isn’t enough for many social media users though, who are demanding the officer in question be reprimanded and the system in which such behaviour is allowed overturned.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm–2.30pm and 7pm– 9.30pm every day. Alternatively, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas.