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Friday, September 9, 2011

Tamsen Reid

Recently there have been several news stories about our client, Tamsen Reid, who was illegally strip searched by former Box Elder County deputy Scott Womack. Last November, Tamsen, who was 17 at the time, was traveling in a car with some friends when the driver of the car was pulled over by Womack for speeding. Womack then conducted a search of the car, and ordered the three female passengers to stand in the snow at the side of the road, lift up their shirts, and pull out their bras, allegedly to see if they were hiding anything.

Womack then collected the driver’s licenses of all 5 teens and took them to his police car, reportedly to check for warrants. Womack claimed there was an outstanding warrant for possession of heroin in Arizona that matched Tamsen's name and ID. This was a lie.

Womack threatened to take Tamsen to jail unless she proved she was not the person with the warrant, which she could do by submitting to a “brief” strip search in his car to show him she did not have the tattoos and piercings that identified the “wanted” person.

Womack was a uniformed Sheriff’s Deputy in a marked police car. Tamsen did not want to get in trouble or go to jail, so she sat in the front seat of the Womack’s car and removed her clothes, showing him she did not have the tattoos and piercings described. Womack even tried to check for vaginal piercings. Tamsen did not realize this was a grossly illegal strip search by an officer who was egregiously abusing his authority. She just knew she didn’t want to be taken to jail. After Womack got his eyeful, he let Tamsen go and issued her friend a warning about speeding.

Shortly before her 18th birthday, Tamsen decided to check into the warrant that Womack said he found. She discovered that there was no such warrant. She realized she had been duped into removing her clothes for the sick enjoyment of a uniformed Sheriff’s deputy. Fortunately, Tamsen was referred to our office, and after some investigation, we filed a lawsuit against Womack based on, among other things, his deplorable violation of Tamsen’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Further investigation revealed that Tamsen was not the first woman that Deputy Womack used this ploy on. Other women had complained to the Box Elder Sheriff’s Office about similar conduct by Womack. In cases where the Sheriff or the County had knowledge of complaints, the law holds the Sheriff and the County responsible for failing to prevent Womack from acting illegally. After the previous complaints, Womack should have been suspended and/or terminated. Instead he was allowed to continue patrolling the streets, and to continue violating the rights of citizens he happened to stop, such as Tamsen.

We have since learned that Womack is no longer employed by the Box Elder Sheriffs. Of course, we are happy to hear this, but it is too late for Tamsen. We continue to pursue this lawsuit on Tamsen’s behalf.


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