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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cops Settle Intimate Search Suit for $7,900

Posted by Matt Davis on Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 4:26 PM

Last September we ran this story on intimate search policies by Portland police officers, in which officers appeared to have no problem conducting intimate so-called "inventory searches" on suspects in the street:

"You've noticed that they have drugs there," the cops' public information officer, Cathe Kent, told the Mercury when asked about exposing suspects to humiliating searches in public. "This is where they hide it, and we're trained to retrieve it. If people were being groped and manhandled, there would be complaints."

Kent says criminals have also been known to hide drugs in their nostrils, ear canals, belly buttons, and inside children's diapers, and says searching somebody's underwear is "not a good part of the job."

"But these people don't have any morals," Kent adds. "We respect them more than they respect themselves."


Police bureau policies don't provide female officers to do "inventory searches" of female suspects in public. But a woman allegedly subjected to such a search in public has just been paid a $7,900 settlement from the city over allegations in a Federal Court suit. Ondrea Hollinquest was arrested in December 2007 by officers Nicholas Rothwell and Mark Zylawy. Zylawy is now deceased following a tragic traffic accident and is remembered positively by police officers and community members alike. As always it should be noted that the following claims are allegations, most police officers have multiple legal claims made against them in a given year during their careers and that a settlement by the city does not necessarily imply whether the claims are true or false. Zylawy was also not a named defendant in this case, which was filed against the city, Police Chief Rosie Sizer, and Officer Rothwell.

Hollingquest was stopped by Rothwell and Zylawy at NE Rodney and Beech and taken to the side of their car for a search. Hollinquest asked for a female officer to conduct the search. Allegations from the suit:

The Officers searched Plaintiff over her objections despite the fact that there were a group of construction workers nearby watching.

The Officers lifted her arms above her head. Officer Zylawy proceeded to lift Plaintiff’s bra and searched around her chest. Officer Zylawy then put his hand inside the waistband of Plaintiff’s pants. Plaintiff did not have on underwear. Officer Zylawy searched inside Plaintiff’s pants and between her legs. During the search several nearby onlookers were watching and Plaintiff’s body was exposed to public view. Plaintiff repeatedly asked for a female officer to be called to do the search, a request the Officers disregarded. Plaintiff struggled and repeated “no, no, please no.”

The Officers placed Plaintiff in the back of the car. The Officers turned on 95.5 FM and played very loud hip-hop music. The Officers rolled down the windows of the car and drove Plaintiff around the neighborhood several times, playing the music at a loud volume the entire time.

The Officers then took Plaintiff to the Old Town neighborhood and drove her around there, also with the windows rolled down and the music at a loud volume.

According to BOEC records, the Officers drove Plaintiff around for about 40 minutes before taking her to be booked at the Multnomah County Detention Center.


You can download a copy of the suit here. The police bureau declined comment on the matter because of the litigation. Meanwhile the city attorney's office are yet to return a call for comment.

"Office Mark Zylawy was one of the most respected police officers the Portland Police Bureau has ever had, and it would appear, based on the suit being filed long after his passing, that this could be construed as a way of capitalizing on an officer's death," says Portland Police Association President Scott Westerman. "There's no way for Officer Zylawy to defend his reputation against such a suit, and I would venture to guess that the city's hands were tied as a result."

"If, in fact, this suit was filed because there was no way for Zylawy to defend it, then I find that one of the most appalling acts I have ever heard of," Westerman continues.

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