6 female correction officers charged with illegal strip searches

MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- Six female correction officers have been charged with illegally strip searching women visiting the Manhattan Detention Center, prosecutors announced on Monday.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office identified the suspects as:
--Leslie-Ann Absalom, a 53-year-old retired captain
--Officer Daphne Farmer, 49
--Officer Jennifer George, 32
--Officer Lisette Rodriguez, 51
--Officer Alifa Waiters, 45
--Officer Latoya Shuford, 36

They are charged with official misconduct, conspiracy and various counts of filing false documents.

"There is no excuse for violating the human rights of New Yorkers visiting our City's jails," District Attorney Cy Vance said. "As alleged, these officers flagrantly abused their power when they ignored their training and subjected visitors to humiliating and unlawful searches. Further, they attempted to cover up their actions by forcing visitors to sign consent forms under false pretenses, and repeatedly lying in official documents."

According to court documents, the defendants routinely strip searched female visitors who did not voluntarily consent to a search, forcing them to remove their clothes and subjecting them to physical touching in private areas. The illegal searches allegedly happened at least five times.

Investigators said the officers then covered up the crime by filing false paperwork.

"At the end of the day, we're guilty of doing our jobs, we're guilty of trying to keep the jails safe, we're guilty of trying to keep visitors safe, we're guilty of trying to keep corrections officers safe," said Elias Husamadeen, president of the Correction Officer Association. "To base this on allegations and what somebody said as opposed to the fact, I think when this case is said and done, that my corrections officers are going to be vindicated."

Officials said that paperwork led to the arrest of three visitors, whose charges were based on the illegal searches.

"People visiting loved ones in our city's jails should feel safe, period," DOC Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Peter Thorne said. "If these allegations are proven true, the officers involved face termination. They have already been suspended."

The DOC says strip searches and body cavity searches of visitors are not permitted, only pat frisks with signed consent forms that must be conducted in the presence of a supervisor.

An individual is not required to remove any clothing except outerwear, and the DOC requires a same-gender supervisor supervise all consented searches.

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