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Florida City Pays $25K in Bra-Shaking Incident

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The city of Lakeland has paid $25,000 to a woman ordered to shake out her bra during a Lakeland police traffic stop last year, city records show.

Zoe Brugger, 29, of Lakeland, was paid $25,000 in a check dated July 7, according to records made available to The Ledger after a public records request. The payment was made after it was approved by City Manager Doug Thomas, City Attorney Tim McCausland and other city directors.

Brugger was pulled over by a Lakeland police officer in May 2013 because her vehicle had a broken headlight, police and State Attorney's Office reports said. She was forced to shake out her bra multiple times in a fruitless search for drugs. The officer also searched her car over her objections.

A silent video of the search went viral and State Attorney Jerry Hill said the practice was demeaning, ineffective and possibly dangerous.

The officer, Dustin Fetz, was not punished after a LPD review of the incident found requiring Brugger to shake out her bra did not violate police search policy or the law. Fetz served a one-day suspension for misusing recording equipment because he had his car camera turned on during the incident but not his microphone.

Brugger's lawyer, K.C. Bouchillon of Lilly, O'Toole & Brown, could not be reached for comment.

City officials still do not consider the case settled even though a payment has been made.

"Although I believe the case is resolved," McCausland said in an email, "we have not received an executed release which I believe is forthcoming."

The release frees the city from the threat of a lawsuit from Brugger.

The payment to Brugger was disclosed to The Ledger through a public records request after city officials said there was no settlement.

City spokesman Kevin Cook told The Ledger July 10 that no settlement had been reached with Brugger. The $25,000 was approved by city officials July 1 and a check issued July 7.

Cook said he reported to The Ledger what McCausland told him and that the statement was not wrong because a settlement technically had not been reached.

"I was told there was no settlement originally and technically the issue isn't considered settled until there is an executed release and the city of Lakeland has not received that release," Cook said in an email.

It is unclear whether LPD will change its policy on bra shaking.

Interim Police Chief Larry Giddens and LPD spokesman Gary Gross did not return calls Wednesday.

The LPD investigation found Fetz did not violate police policy even though then-police chief Lisa Womack said in August the department's policy required an officer of the same sex to do any strip searches, so the bra shaking never should have happened.

Fetz told a State Attorney's Office investigator that the bra-shaking search "is a known technique that is used by some LPD officers but cannot recall ever formally being trained to do this," according to a State Attorney's Office report.

Brugger could not be reached for comment.

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Ryan Little can be reached at ryan.little@theledger.com or 863-802-7592. Follow him on Twitter @LedgerRyan.

 

 

Copyright 2014 - The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.

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