BERNALILLO, NM – The ACLU and Marlene Tapia are filing a federal lawsuit against Bernalillo County after an officer strip searched her two years ago and pepper sprayed her vagina.
“It’s tantamount to torture,” the Executive Director of ACLU of New Mexico Peter Simonson said.
Police arrested Tapia for a probation violation tied to a previous drug case. While at the detention center, police reportedly strip searched her and asked her to bend over at the waist. They noticed a plastic baggie dangling from her vagina. Instead of calling for a doctor to do the removal, Officer Blanca Zapater sprayed mace on her genitals twice.
Tapia reported severe burns, pain and suffering for weeks. Simonson of the ACLU said he’s never seen anything like this before. “It’s just the maliciousness, the wanton disregard, wanton maliciousness that the corrections officer demonstrated,” he said. “This is the kind of chemical that is intended to be sprayed on other parts of the body, to cause pain, but to spray it on the very most sensitive part of a person’s body only doubles the pain.”
They believe that not only was jail policy violated, but basic constitutional rights. Tapia was cooperative with officers and did not resist them. The ACLU is not seeking compensation on the case, simply to assert that in the future there will be more constitutional protections against this type of behavior.
Officer Zapater was disciplined but remains on staff.