While I was going through it, although I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity, I got the strength to regain composure and remain dignified thinking that I must represent all of my colleagues and my country with confidence and pride,
– NYC Indian Diplomat Devyani Khobragade describing her Strip Search
Source: Times of India
Millions of Indians are getting their panties and knickers in a twist over the strip search of their diplomat Devyani Khobragade following her arrest in New York City on charges of Visa fraud and making false statements.
Surely Indians’ anger would intensify a million-fold now that the U.S. Marshals Service has confirmed Devyani was indeed strip searched as claimed in media reports.
Although Devyani was arrested by the Diplomatic Security, her post-arrest processing was handled by the U.S. Marshals Service.
In a statement Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals Service acknowledged Devyani was strip searched and “subject to the same search procedures as other U.S. Marshals Service arrestees held within the general prisoner population in the Southern District of New York.”
According to U.S. Marshals Service regulations, strip searches are authorized only when there’s reasonable suspicion that the arrestee may be carrying contraband and/or weapons, is considered to be a security, escape and/or suicide risk.
If you go by the “reasonable suspicion” criteria, Devyani was not a person who should have been subjected to a strip search at all.
U.S. Marshals Strip Search – Procedure
Since the U.S. is a litigious society, the U.S. Marshals Service has clear rules on how a strip search is to be conducted.
These strip search rules are also put out on the Internet so that the public may know how it is conducted.
A strip search is usually conducted by a Deputy of the U.S. Marshals Service of the same sex. A witness of the same sex is also required to be present.
Here’s the likely scenario of how Devyani Khobragade’s strip search went going by the U.S. Marshals Service regulations.
As per U.S. Marshals Service procedures, Devyani’s strip search would have included a thorough search of both her clothing and a visual inspection of her naked body including all body cavities.
At the outset, Devyani would have been instructed to remove all her clothing, valuables, hairpieces etc.
It is important to understand that a strip search under U.S. Marshals Service rules allows only for a visual examination and “should not involve touching the skin surface.”
No touching allowed unless the arrestee refuses to cooperate in the strip search process.
After Devyani removed her clothing etc, U.S. Marshals would have first conducted a thorough visual examination of her body from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet.
The marshals would have then asked Devyani to brush her hair vigorously to dislodge any contraband. Although Devyani may have been squeaky clean, other arrestees might not be. So marshals make no distinctions for Indian Foreign Service officers and have a standardized procedure for everyone.
Next, a marshal would have looked behind her ears. Then the marshal would have inspected Devyani’s ear canals, nostrils and mouth.
U.S. marshals also look under the tongue, roof of the mouth and between the lips and gums.
Close Attention – Vagina, Breasts, Armpits
Now would have come the extremely agonizing and humiliating part for Devyani.
As per policy, U.S. Marshals would have carefully inspected the front of Devyani’s body.
The U.S. Marshals Service manual requires the Deputy conducting the strip search to pay “close attention” to armpits, breasts and vagina.
It’s likely that in the past arrestees have hidden illegal stuff like blades, small knives and other weapons or contraband in these sensitive body parts and so the U.S. Marshals Service asks its Deputies to pay “close attention” to these areas.
After inspecting the front of her body, the marshals would have ordered Devyani to face in the opposite direction and conducted a visual inspection of her back side.
By this time, Devyani surely would have been in a nauseous and miserable state.
But there was more distress to come for the 39-year-old Indian diplomat, if one goes by the U.S. Marshals Service rules.
Devyani Khobragade – During Happier Times in Manhattan
(Picture courtesy: Twitter)
The U.S. Marshals would have ordered Devyani to spread her legs and bend forward at the waist.
As per U.S. Marshals Service rules, the marshal would then have carefully observed Devyani’s anus and vagina from the rear.
Finally, the marshals would have observed the bottoms and between the toes of both her feet.
Upon conclusion of the strip search, the Deputy responsible for the search would have then thoroughly searched Devyani’s clothing and property before returning them to her.
It’s unlikely that the more intrusive “Digital-cavity Search” was conducted on Devyani although it cannot be ruled out.
Devyani – Strip Search Unjustified
Although the U.S. Marshals have justified the strip search of Devyani as a standard procedure, it’s completely inappropriate in Devyani’s case.
Not every arrestee processed by the U.S. Marshals Service is a drug peddler, hooker or a homicidal maniac.
If any arrestee warranted an exception from the degrading humiliation of a strip search, it was Devyani Khobragade.
At the time of her arrest, Devyani had no past criminal history.
Nor were her alleged crimes (Visa fraud and making false statements about wages to her maid) of a nature that warranted a strip search.
On what ground can the U.S. Marshals suspect that Devyani, a Deputy Consul General of the Indian Consulate in NYC, was carrying contraband and/or weapons or that she was a security, escape or suicide risk.
Given all that we know about Devyani’s actions in NYC, there seems to be no justification at all for her arrest.
At the most, Devyani should have been subjected to a pat-down search.
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