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Attorney claims Puyallup jail officers forced DUI suspects to strip like ‘Barbie dolls’

Surveillance video from the Puyallup Jail shows a female suspect changing in a holding cell. The video recorded the woman while she completely disrobed, even though she was due to be released quickly after being arrested for suspected DUI. (Image courtesy Attorney James Egan via KING-5)

A high-profile Seattle defense attorney has filed suit against the City of Puyallup on behalf of a dozen clients who he claims were forced to undress and use the bathroom while under arrest for driving under the influence.

James Egan represents 11 women and one man who claim officers at the Puyallup Jail committed voyeurism and violated their rights to privacy.

According to Egan, jail officers targeted mostly young, attractive women and forced them to strip naked and use facilities in areas of the jail that guards knew were under video surveillance. Egan said he found males were able to use a private area that isn’t monitored by cameras.

One of the alleged victims said the jail staff told her to undress in what she believed to be a private cell. After she had changed into a jail uniform, she said the jailer forced her to take off her clothes again.

“An officer came in and says something to her and she takes her jail pants off and then her panties,” Egan said. “I thought, ‘this has got to stop.'”

Egan said he noticed two years ago that his DUI clients were forced to undress at the Puyallup Jail, even though some were about to be released. He said he began filing public disclosure requests for jail video and determined there was “significant pattern” and of jail officers orchestrating “peep shows.”

“They were directing them to do it like dolls,” he said. “Like taking clothes of a Barbie doll.”

Egan said he reached out to individuals depicted in the videos and asked if they would be willing to file suit.

“The tactics that Mr. Egan uses are slimy,” said Puyallup City Attorney Kevin Yamamoto. “Mr. Egan does not have the best interest of these folks at heart.”

Yamamoto said Egan requested hundreds of jailhouse videos and “cherry-picked” those which he thought would support his theory of the case and peak public interest.

“In our view, Mr. Egan’s claims are completely baseless,” said Puyallup Police Captain Scott Engle. “Jail monitoring video systems are a dime a dozen in correctional institutions. We can’t be everywhere at every time and this is standard operating procedure.”

The lawsuit seeks damages against the City of Puyallup, the Puyallup police chief and a police lieutenant.

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