Successful Fight to End Unconstitutional "Street" Strip Searches By the Oakland Police Department

For more than a decade, the Oakland Police Department had a practice, and eventually a written policy, allowing officers to strip search people right on the street in broad daylight. Haddad & Sherwin teamed up with John Burris to represent dozens of men - all African-American - who were subjected to this offensive and illegal police misconduct. Some of these cases lasted almost ten years, in the course of which, we obtained an important court ruling striking down Oakland's unconstitutional strip search policies, we won a trial with punitive damages for two men, and achieved a sweeping $4.6 million settlement for the remaining 39 men. Altogether, these related cases resulted in verdicts and settlements over $5,850,000, and a sweeping agreement that includes a new lawful OPD strip search policy and re-training, with court oversight and enforcement.

Related Headlines
  • Oakland to pay $4.6 million in strip search cases
    Matthew ArtzOakland TribuneNovember 14, 2012

    OAKLAND -- Council members voted Tuesday to pay $4.6 million in damages to 39 plaintiffs who accused Oakland police of illegally strip-searching them in public between 2002 and 2009. "It's been a very long time for many of our guys for this acknowledgment," the plaintiffs'attorney Michael Haddad said. "This settlement is vindication of their rights and their claims." ... Oakland has since revised its strip-search policy, but Haddad said it still gives officers broad powers to conduct searches in public, especially for parolees. "If we can't agree on a policy," he said, "we're going to have to take them back to court."

  • Public strip search costs ex-Oakland Cop $40K
    Henry K. LeeSan Francisco ChronicleNovember 8, 2011

    A former Oakland police officer must pay $40,000 out of his own pocket to two men who were illegally strip-searched in public and have already been awarded at least $100,000 apiece in damages. Spencer Troy Lucas and Kirby Bradshaw had their pants pulled down on a busy West Oakland street in 2005 by police after then-Officer Ingo Mayer stopped them for no lawful reason, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel wrote in an August ruling after a bench trial. In the ruling, the judge ordered the city to pay $105,000 in compensatory damages to Lucas and $100,000 to Bradshaw. On Friday, the judge ordered Mayer to pay $25,000 to Lucas and $15,000 to Bradshaw. "She thought it was important to send a message to penalize this officer for his flagrant violation of constitutional rights," the men's attorney, Michael Haddad, said Monday. Mayer retired on disability as a result of the trial, the judge said.

  • Men stripped by Oakland cops in public win lawsuit; Judge to Assess Punitive Damages Soon
    Henry K. LeeSan Francisco ChronicleAugust 5, 2011

    OAKLAND -- Two men were illegally stripsearched by Oakland police in public and will each receive at least $100,000 in damages, a federal judge ruled Thursday. ... Both men testified "to their humiliation and feelings of degradation as a result of this public spectacle, as well as the subsequent recurrent memories of feeling terrorized," Patel wrote. "The testimony of the feeling of 'submissiveness' also speaks to the sense of degradation," the judge said. "This feeling is particularly poignant when viewed in light of the history of young black men in this country." ... The fate of 39 other men who have also sued the city is on hold because Patel is retiring, said attorneys John Burris and Michael Haddad, who represent all the plaintiffs.

  • Strip-Search Suits Get Day in Court
    Dan LevineThe RecorderMarch 10, 2010

    After all the pretrial publicity and years of motion practice, the value of 44 strip-search suits against the Oakland Police Department may come down to the credibility of a part-time city pool cleaner.

  • Oakland Strip-Search Law Ruled Unconstitutional
    Henry K. LeeSan Francisco ChronicleMarch 29, 2008

    The Oakland Police Department's strip-search policy is unconstitutional because it provides too low a threshold for officers seeking to check for contraband on suspects in public places, a federal judge said in a ruling made public Friday.