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Houston Breakthrough, April 1979
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Houston Breakthrough, April 1979 - Page 9. April 1979. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. February 20, 2020. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1324/show/1305.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(April 1979). Houston Breakthrough, April 1979 - Page 9. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1324/show/1305

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, April 1979 - Page 9, April 1979, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed February 20, 2020, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/1324/show/1305.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, April 1979
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date April 1979
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
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Title Page 9
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File Name femin_201109_549ai.jpg
Transcript Search and arrest by Andrea Bowen Verbal and physical abuse and a strip search by the police for a minor traffic violation does not happen in Houston, or does it? Trish Herrera, a 25-year-old Houston businesswoman, says it does. On March 5, 1978 while traveling along the Gulf Freeway near the Scott Street overpass, Herrera was stopped by two patrol cars. She knew that she had been driving 60 in a 50 miles per hour zone. Four Houston police officers approached her car, ordered her from it and when she hesitated, she says, they verbally and physically abused her as they dragged her into one of the patrol cars. "When so many officers approached my car, the only thing I thought was 'Oh, God, I'm going to be raped,' " explained the longtime Houston resident. "I had heard of girls being raped by policemen and not having any recourse. I just kept thinking this cannot be happening," she continued. "The officers shoved me into the patrol car. They pushed so hard that I hit my head on the car. By that time, I knew I was going to jail," the local hair salon owner recalled. She had never had any previous confrontation with police nor had she ever been inside a jail. When she arrived at the jail, she was told to sit on a bench while the officers completed their paperwork. Moments later, Officer C. A. Lawrence ordered her to sign a court summons for a speeding violation. Finally, Herrera was subjected to a "humiliating" strip search by a policewoman. "When they put me into that empty room and I was told to strip, I just couldn't believe it. I thought, 'this is totally ridiculous,' " she emphasized. "I suppose I was luckier than other girls this has happened to because I did not have a cavity search. All the woman officer did was a patdown." After the strip search, Herrera was informed that she was being charged with changing lanes without a signal. She did not have sufficient funds with her to post bond. Almost two hours after entering the jail, she was permitted to make a phone call. An hour and a half later Herrera was released, after a friend paid $23.59 for the bond. "When it was all over I was a nervous wreck. I went home and slept for two days," she stated. During the ordeal, Herrera kept thinking that the officers were really going to get in trouble for their actions. "I guess it was my thoughts and strong feelings ■M E in u TRISH HERRERA "I signed a court summons for a speeding violation. When I was told to strip, I just couldn't believe it. I thought, 'this is totally ridiculous.'" against these actions that did not allow me to break up," she recollected. She was afraid to worry her parents about the incident, but knew she should seek help to keep this from happening to other Houston women. "A friend suggested that I call Breakthrough and the newspaper's editor, in turn, told me to call the local American Civil Liberties Union if I wanted to take action against the officers," Herrera explained. The ACLU workers, aware of such practices in the past, have gone to bat for Herrera. Her attorney, Matthew Horowitz has filed a petition against the City of Houston, Police Chief Harry Caldwell, Officers Lawrence and R. G. Piel, two unknown male officers and an unknown female officer for violating Herrera's rights under the fourth, eighth and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution and under Article 1, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. These amendments pertain to "the defendant (Herrera) having been subjected to needless physical brutality and to an illegal custodial arrest and an illegal search." "We have not set an amount on the lawsuit. It is not the money that I care about. I just want this type of action by the police to stop. I'm not the first person this has happened to in Houston. If such practices are allowed to continue I certainly will not be the last," offered Herrera. Horowitz said that the ACLU had been contacted by other women several years ago, but none would press charges. One girl was searched so roughly (a cavity search) by a matron that she began to bleed. The night Herrera was arrested, another young woman also had been apprehended, not for a traffic violation, but for not having any identification when entering a nightclub. "That girl really was scared. She was crying and shaking. I tried to help her by telling her they (the police) can't get away with this," Herrera explained. "Hopefully with this suit, the policemen will think twice before subjecting another girl to a similar search and arrest. Sometimes when you give men the power to kill, the power goes to their heads and they cannot control it," she said. When asked if she felt bitter toward the police, she simply replied, "Against the officers who arrested me, I feel bitter, but not to policemen in general. There are good and bad policemen like there are good and not-so-good people." Herrera's story has received national attention. Soon after an article appeared in Time (March 19) she was stopped by a Houston police officer for an inspection sticker check and because, "He said he thought I was a little kid driving the car. A crazy reason," she says. "Sometimes, I feel that I will continue to be harassed by the police because of the lawsuit, but I don't care," she shrugged. In March, the ACLU filed a class- action suit asking the U. S. district court to restrict police from conducting strip searches of women accused of minor violations. According to Time magazine, a warrant would have to be obtained for such a search and any cavity searches would have to be done by a physician. The suit also asks $125,000 in damages for each victim. Recently a woman has filed a suit against the Brazoria County (Texas) Sheriff's Department for conducting a strip search. This woman was forced to strip before she was allowed to see her sons who were in jail. She was told the officers were looking for marijuana. Courts and high law enforcement officials across the nation gradually are setting guidelines that police must follow while searching a woman. In California, Time reported, no woman can be searched unless she is going to be held in a jail. That state also has detailed regulations to guard against the casual jailing of a person for a misdemeanor. Washington, D. C, is another city that has detailed regulations about such searches. Whether Houston or the State of Texas will ever have such legislation or rules remains to be seen. Perhaps Herrera's case will be the precedent for such action. Andrea Bowen is a former reporter for the Orange Leader and is now a staff writer at the Houston Westside Reporter. HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH . l ♦. v i r l- APRIL 1979