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Lawsuit: Police videotaped DUI suspects undressing, using the toilet

By Amanda Watts and Dana Ford, CNN
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Fri August 23, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 12 plaintiffs: 11 women and one man
  • "I am absolutely horrified and violated. I honestly can't believe it," says one
  • Police and the city of Puyallup, Washington, deny any wrongdoing
  • They say suspects are recorded for the safety of everyone at the jail

(CNN) -- "A peep show."

That's how attorney James Egan described the jail in Puyallup, Washington.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of 12 plaintiffs -- 11 women and one man -- Egan alleges that police there recorded suspects undressing and using the toilet. Each had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

"For an extended period, the Puyallup Police Department has engaged in a pattern and practice of violating the fundamental rights to bodily privacy, dignity, and unlawful searches and seizures of the inmates detained within the Puyallup Police Department's Jail," read the lawsuit, which was filed in Pierce County Superior Court.

"Plaintiffs had a reasonable expectation of privacy which was violated by their having been secretly videotaped in assorted states of undress. It is believed that officers may have committed this offense for the purpose of obtaining arousal or personal gratification," the suit continued.

Police and the city deny any wrongdoing.

They say suspects are given clothes to change into before having their mug shots taken, and are recorded for the safety of everyone at the jail.

"People are very creative in where they can hide things. They hide things in places you wouldn't image. The jail business is not fun and it's not safe. So we have to expect the worst," said Kevin Yamamoto, city attorney for Puyallup.

The lawsuit describes in great detail the alleged experiences of the 12 plaintiffs, who are identified by their initials.

S.C. was recorded changing clothes in a holding cell.

She alleges that officers made inappropriate comments, saying things like, "I love red heads," and "You have a nice body," the lawsuits reads.

"What they were doing is perverted. This is like a porn video they were watching. I feel extremely violated. They took me at my most vulnerable part and forced me to indulge in their needs or sick fantasy to watch me undress and gawk at me afterwards," S.C. is quoted as saying.

Another plaintiff, identified as M.L., was recorded using the toilet and changing her clothes.

"It was one of the worst experiences of my life because of how mean and rude they treated me. I am absolutely horrified and violated. I honestly can't believe it. I had no idea there were cameras around. The fact those are supposed to be police officers upholding our justice system while violating it is absolutely disgusting," she said.

Capt. Ryan Portmann, with the Puyallup police, accused Egan of picking the 12 plaintiffs out of many possible cases because they look better on paper.

Jail video monitoring is widespread. Many correctional institutions use it, and it's legitimate, Portmann said.

"I'm just as human as anyone else, and I wouldn't like it," said Yamamoto, the city attorney. But, he added: "We have a facility we need to ensure the safety of."

CNN's Cristy Lenz contributed to this report.

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