Perspectives: How a traffic stop, outrageous body search exemplifies the new normal

OPINION – How is it that we are losing our sense of outrage over things truly outrageous, things like a woman driver being subjected to several body searches after simply failing to use her turn signal early enough?

It’s one thing to find ourselves in trouble because we missed a crucial indicator of an impending problem. It’s another thing to willfully ignore the warning signals that are flashing in our faces.

With a veritable blizzard of information swirling around us each day, it’s understandable that we might miss something now and then. For some things, it’s not that big of a deal – like the guy who shows up in public wearing two different shoes: He might draw a few chuckles, but he’s not hurting anything.

What’s tougher to understand is how respectable people, when presented with compelling evidence that something is dangerously wrong, can choose to either ignore it, shrug it off or attempt to justify it.

This kind of ignorance, coupled with the perceived legitimacy of state power, paves the way for an outrageous new normal to take hold.

Consider the case of Kimberlee Carbone:

In November 2013 Carbone was stopped by a police officer in New Castle, Pennsylvania, for allegedly failing to activate her turn signal at least 100 feet before an intersection. A minor traffic technicality became the basis for five hours of sadistic treatment. 

According to the account by blogger Jacob Sullum, the traffic stop was a pretext for the officer to begin a fishing expedition for drugs he wrongly suspected were in her car. Claiming to smell marijuana, the officer arrested her on suspicion of DUI but did not administer a roadside sobriety test.

Carbone was subjected to a pat-down. The search turned up nothing.

Her vehicle was later searched. The search turned up nothing.

Carbone was taken to jail, where she was subjected to the standard strip search that the Supreme Court has deemed acceptable for all incoming arrestees no matter how minor the offense. The search turned up nothing.

Two correctional officers weren’t satisfied that Carbone’s orifices were free of drugs and instructed her arresting officer to take her to nearby Jameson Hospital for further examination. A doctor was enlisted to sign off on a medical order for “internal examination” of Carbone’s body cavities as treatment for a “possible overdose, rectal packing and/or oral intake of a controlled substance.” She was strapped to a hospital bed by her wrists and ankles and Dr. Bernard Geiser performed internal inspections of her most private places. The search turned up nothing.

The doctor then ordered her subjected to an involuntary CT scan. The scan for drugs, like the searches, turned up nothing.

The doctor performed yet another internal examination and then ordered two nurses to perform a third. Carbone’s vagina was swabbed for testing, and her urine was also tested for the presence of drugs. The additional searches turned up nothing.

After five hours of abuse, Carbone was told she was free to go.

For those keeping score at home, let’s see what all this fuss added up to.

A woman was stopped on a traffic law technicality, falsely accused of DUI, essentially kidnapped, stripped, humiliated and repeatedly violated by law enforcement and medical personal who were determined to find out if she possessed any quantity of a plant.

No drugs of any kind were found.

If our first inclination is to angrily insist there must be more to this story than the facts stated, we’re officially part of the problem.

What “facts” could possibly turn five hours of official captivity and sexual abuse into a moral action?

Incidents like what happened to Kimberlee Carbone have happened before. The frequency with which they happen is irrelevant. The fact they are happening at all, under the color of law, is what’s outrageous.

They are happening because our government has enacted laws that place a higher value on escalating searches to enforce them than on the natural rights of the people they are supposed to be protecting.

Was it worth it to inflict irreversible trauma on an innocent woman on the off chance that police might find a measurable amount of a naturally occurring substance?

Sneering that we should “just obey the law” doesn’t quite cut it when those enforcing the law are more willing to engage in criminal aggression than they are willing to admit they were wrong.

The only person in this sad story who did nothing that victimized another person was Carbone. The same cannot be said for the professionals who clicked their heels and simply did their jobs.

These folks aren’t likely monsters in their day-to-day lives, but their lack of moral perspective allows them to participate in acts that can only be described as monstrous.

This is what’s been called “the banality of evil.”

Hannah Arendt, commenting on this tendency stated:

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

Reasonable people can still agree that substance abuse is the source of many societal ills. That alone does not justify the kind of lawless aggression we’re seeing.

Where are the reasonable folks who can see that enabling experiences like what happened to Kimberlee Carbone isn’t solving the problem but compounding it?

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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29 Comments

  • .... August 8, 2016 at 9:05 am

    This was extremely degrading and uncalled for regardless of whatever traffic violation took place. what was done two her is nothing short of just plain evil ..no evil act goes unpunished, those that committed these immoral acts against her will all answer for their actions. Praise the Lord !

    • Real Life August 8, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Can somebody please get this guy some help?

      • .... August 8, 2016 at 12:02 pm

        God bless you enjoy your day and give my regards two your loved ones

      • Bob August 8, 2016 at 12:09 pm

        anything short of forcing his meds down his throat will not work.

        • .... August 8, 2016 at 2:12 pm

          May the good lord watch over you. enjoy your day and give my regards two your family

        • .... August 8, 2016 at 2:24 pm

          It’s a tough world out there Bob and it seems it creates confusion and misguidence for you but fear not my fellow brethren my prayers are with you .and may you find peace in your life at some time. .Praise the Lord

          • Bob August 8, 2016 at 7:35 pm

            Praise the Lord! AMEN!

      • Bob August 8, 2016 at 12:10 pm

        i will sign the petition for involuntary commitment for Dumpster

        • .... August 8, 2016 at 9:30 pm

          God bless you my fellow brethren

  • ladybugavenger August 8, 2016 at 9:06 am

    That is outrageous, traumatizing, and a complete overreach of the mentalitity by many officers that are administers of the law that i have heard been said by few with a chuckle,”I am the law”

    It’s a corruption that often times is used in a less blatant way to many people. this example used is an extreme case but not isolated and everyone should be pissed off about it.

    It’s unfortunate that it’s hard to win the fight against corruption for average citizens (those without hundred of thousands and millions of dollars to spend on lawyers) to fight it as they all cover up for each other and use resources to intimidate. That doesn’t mean roll over and be bullied, win or lose you still have to take a stand against it. Wake up America! This happens daily.

  • John August 8, 2016 at 9:23 am

    For a nation that loves to sing about liberty we sure find lots of ways to imprison and limit people.
    Are we so afraid that we grant police unconstitutional power over us?
    I hope you are happy with all the conservative judges who have chopped away your protections from unreasonable search and seizure.

  • Craig August 8, 2016 at 9:23 am

    I only see one side to this story. Are you going to investigate the other side?

    If accurate, this is horrible and needed to be rectified. However, using a term like the “new norm” is not accurate. As an emergency physician for over 35 years, I’ve worked with many police officers.

    The overwhelming majority I would love to have as a neighbor and friends.

    An attack on law enforcement while we have a Prezident promoting police hate, which has led to assassinations of police officers, is a bit irresponsible.

    Get to know your police. You will find great human beings who have a courage and sense of duty you and I do not have.

    If I am inaccurate in my understanding of what you are saying, please correct me.

    Craig Bosley
    drboz5750@msn.com

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde August 8, 2016 at 10:25 am

      Craig, I would agree with you completely that most officers do not take such liberties with the law. This column is intended to draw attention to the draconian laws and precedent that could give such actions official legal cover. That’s what makes it the new normal.

      It doesn’t matter that it’s an “isolated incident” or that most cops don’t behave this way.

      The state is exercising power in a harmful manner that allows its agents to do things that are morally indefensible. That power needs to be strictly limited to prevent further abuse. I hope this gives you a better feel of where I stand.

      • NotSoFast August 8, 2016 at 11:46 am

        I agree with your opinion column that something is wrong with the intent of certain new draconian laws ‘hiding behind the new norm’ and the example you bring up. So what’s your point? You sound like you don’t have any concreate suggestions except to get to know the cop next door? That’s it?
        Your suggestion is like farting into the wind. Why don’t you do a follow up to this problem with something besides What’s a fellow to do?
        Be politely Incorrect if you have to Bryan. But gives us your real corrective solution opinion. We’ll listen.

        • Bob August 8, 2016 at 1:03 pm

          he doesn’t have any solutions, just lots of talk about “liberty” and “free markets”–typical libertarian drivel.. don’t look to a radio entertainer for leadership

          • .... August 8, 2016 at 10:39 pm

            Calm down Bob no one in this world has two answer two you. this is not your world. you are part of this world. you need to get a grip on life Bob . may the good lord watch over you. .

      • Bob August 8, 2016 at 1:06 pm

        oh yea, and Hyde, it totally matters that it’s an “isolated incident”. why wouldn’t it matter?

        • ladybugavenger August 8, 2016 at 2:00 pm

          It’s not an isolated incident, the norm is to intimidate the victim and point the finger at mental illness so it doesn’t get in the news

  • youcandoit August 8, 2016 at 10:06 am

    What happened is horrible that they would waste tax payers money to go to the extremes, just to find any drugs they could have started with urine test. I’m sure there’s 2 sides to this maybe she has a history of using. However the extremes of the tests were uncalled for. I watched get Gephardt, he did a report about Ut drivers license when you sign to get your Ut drivers license you are automatically giving consent for authorities to search your car. I feel they went overboard on this woman, and the people in her town should be upset about how their tax money was spent. Ugh

    • ladybugavenger August 8, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Are you implying that a person with a history deserves to be treated this way? Hmmmmmm that explains a lot about society. The corrupted politician that has a history of what appears to be good deeds is hard to punish?

      • ladybugavenger August 8, 2016 at 1:58 pm

        I reread your comment I may have overstepped but my comment stands as is.

        • .... August 8, 2016 at 9:32 pm

          Yeah ! What Ladybug said. ! Amen

  • Bob August 8, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    we live in a police state. 9-11 brought in a whole slew of authoritarian police-state laws. our gov’t tortures US citizens. Some cavity searches on a suspected tweeker isn’t out of the norm at all. not sure about ‘reason.com’ .. is it a credible source of anything?

    • .... August 8, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Well your just another opinion and that’s all it is Bob. .enjoy your day my fellow brethren

  • bigjohn6t9 August 8, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    when freeedom lost liberty dies. law officer are being train to be very callus in performing there jobs. i believe its part of the officers to be numb of their feeling so they can enforce a new world order.

  • YourMom August 8, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    The Police have been treating their employers poorly for a long time. With so many people having cameras and video recording capabilities, combined with the internet making it easy to spread information, there is more awareness now. The Rodney King beating was only surprising to folks who didn’t live in LA under Chief Gates’ thug tactics. The recording and publicity was what caused a “problem” for police involved. Otherwise it was just another guy who broke the law and who had a record. The citizens need to step up and demand to be treated respectfully or this will just get worse.

  • Dan August 8, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Yes, this was outrageous, ridiculous, and abusive. It was inexcusable.

    However, let’s not bash all cops for the abuses of a few.

    The same goes for bashing all members of a religion for the abuses of a few or any similar over-generalized claims.

  • Common Sense August 9, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Why would they doctor decide to order a CT scan and additional procedures? Did the law enforcement officer order those or did the doctor decide to do them on a whim? Who would be paying for these “procedures”? Is the doctor trying to make extra money? It seems to me like there IS information missing from this story. Yes, the govt crosses boundaries all the time but this is all on account of a “blogger” as Bryan so clearly states. Why is this story so shocking now? This story is from 2013. Do you all of a sudden care or are you desperate for a story? I can’t tell what is fact or fiction. In my opinion this opinion piece is weak. Since when is a cavity search for drugs considered “sexual abuse”?

  • Larry August 9, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Maybe this problem could be eliminated in time by requiring Police officers to obtain Professional Liability Insurance with the policy tied directly to the individual officer and paid for by that individual officer. This type of insurance is required for most all other Real Professions where the individual could harm the public, Like doctors, contractors, or even barbers. This would weed out the bad apples that make stupid mistakes or the ones that got into police work for the wrong reasons, they would become uninsurable after a time.
    Most of the time when we read about these types of incidences, the officer has other questionable “things” in their file before they do something as egregious as the story above relates.

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