Strip search lawsuits result in settlements, policy changes

Settlements in lawsuits alleging six people were illegally strip searched in LaSalle County forced authorities to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those incidents have also forced the sheriff’s department to change the way they do things inside the county jail.

Lawyer Terry Ekl says his client Dana Holmes of Coal City was three times the legal limit when she was pulled over for drunk driving last May. During her arrest, surveillance video shows her appearing to smart off with both the male and female officers searching her for weapons. Ekl alleges that behavior caused the officers to strip search Holmes.

“The Sheriff of LaSalle County admitted they were stripping people who were non-compliant and have been doing it for 40 years, apparently under the belief that it’s ok,” Ekl said. “Well, it isn’t.”

Holmes was stripped and left in this jail cell inebriated. She was later tossed a blanket or two and videotaped the whole time.

Five other cases alleged the same acts by law enforcement. In those other cases, people also weren’t allowed to use bathrooms while in custody.

The settlement reward totals $355,000 which will be split between Holmes, lawyers’ fees and the other plaintiffs.

The Coal City arrest and strip search caught on tape rewarded Holmes the largest piece of the settlement: $125,000.

Another term of the agreement are new detailed policy changes for LaSalle Sounty. Law enforcement must get permission and document any strip searches from here on out and they must keep videos of them for two full years.

A criminal investigation continues with a special prosecutor appointed in LaSalle County.

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