As the worldwide conversation has turned once again to police misconduct, a 2016 incident is coming back to the surface as a powerful talking point.
A San Antonio woman waiting for her boyfriend was swarmed by officers who searched her and her vehicle, with one police detective going so far as to remove her tampon from her vagina right there on a public street with others looking on.
The incident began as literally nothing. There was no crime or suspicion of criminal activity that lead to police being called.
Natalie Simms was waiting for her boyfriend in a public parking area. She was seated on the curb across from her parked vehicle and talking on the phone while she waited.
Officers pulled over and insisted they believed Ms. Simms was in possession of illegal substances. When asked, Ms. Simms agreed to let officers search her vehicle while she waited.
She knew she had nothing on her, so she was not initially concerned. After a search of her car turned up nothing, Ms. Simms thought that would be the end of it.
It was not. Officers on scene called in female detective Mara Wilson.
Even though Ms. Simms had done nothing wrong, not been engaged in any suspicious activity and a search of her vehicle turned up nothing, officers told her she was not free to go until she herself had been searched by Det. Wilson.
The transcript gleaned from the dashcam footage of that search is humiliating, to say the least.
Det. Wilson first asks Ms. Simms if she has anything on her, to which Ms. Simms responds, "No ma'am, nothing."
Det. Wilson continued her search of Ms. Simms, eventually ordering her to spread her legs. Ms. Simms told the officer she had her period.
Det. Wilson reassured her that was not a concern, saying:
"I'm just going to look, I'm not going to reach"
Instead, Det. Wilson slid her hand into Ms. Simms pants and underwear and pulled them down. With five male police officers watching, and in full view of anyone driving by or looking on from surrounding businesses, Det. Wilson conducted a "vaginal search."
She reached her fingers inside of Ms. Simms' vagina and pulled out her tampon and holding it in the air, asked "is that a tampon?"
We're going to stop here for a moment to explain tampon logistics for those who are not familiar.
Removing a tampon can be tricky business. It requires the tampon to be appropriately soaked and for particular body positioning to open the vaginal canal and allow for the tampon to be removed comfortably.
If the tampon is too dry, if the body positioning is incorrect, if the vaginal muscles are tense and contracted, etc. then removal of the tampon can be painful and cause physical damage as it pulls and drags along the vaginal walls. It has been described as feeling like road rash inside of you.
Ms. Simms, stunned by what was happening, snipped that the item was clearly a tampon as it was covered in blood. She also asked the officer why she would pull it out.
Detective Mara Wilson responded as if she didn't know anything about tampons.
"I dunno, it looked like it had stuff in there."
Det. Wilson proceeded to examine and offer commentary on the tampon as she held it in the air. She also loudly told Ms. Simms that she was "really hairy" as she ran her fingers along Simms' labia.
She then ordered Ms. Simms to turn around and spread her legs again. Simms protested; reminding Wilson that they had already found nothing in her car, she had done nothing to stir up suspicion, they were in public, everyone could see everything and Wilson had already pulled out her tampon and found nothing.
"Yeah, I know, but turn around."
Ms. Simms was eventually allowed to leave after nothing was found in her car, in her bag, or on (or in) her body. She was never given a reason officers decided to detain or search her in the first place.
The incident went public when Ms. Simms got an attorney and filed a complaint. She was offered a $205k settlement by the city council in 2019 to avoid the matter having to go through a full trial.
Det. Wilson remained brashly defiant until her 2017 retirement, shrugging off concerns about what happened with Ms. Simms.
When questioned about the search, Wilson stated:
"You don't know what they have in there. I mean, they stick all kinds of stuff."
She never addressed why she insisted on searching Simms in full view of other officers and the public, she never offered a valid reason for pulling the tampon out or for any of the commentary made on the tampon, the biological material covering the tampon, Simms' pubic hair, etc.
Internal Affairs sided with Detective Wilson, stating the search didn't violate any department policies. They even held her up as exemplary, stating her performance exceeded expectations.
Ms. Simms committed no crime, had done nothing suspicious and was humiliated and violated in public with commentary made seemingly for the bemusement of the male officers present.
But that didn't violate any policies. In fact, it was exemplary.
The case has long been viewed as a prime example of unnecessary force and total lack of boundaries by police officers. In light of recent events, people are again talking about it.
And again, they're horrified.
@timesinfinity2 @Mighty_LR their expectations are to brutalize and humiliate people in the community I guess.— Rise on new foundations! (@Rise on new foundations!)1591843327.0
@Mighty_LR How does a woman not know what a tampon is? How does ANYONE not know what a tampon is? There was no reas… https://t.co/Mvwrh51zi3— hornyrights🖖 (@hornyrights🖖)1591795128.0
@NatsuUzumaki21 @apark2453 @Mighty_LR Exactly i am a recovering addict & have been arrested & fully strip searched… https://t.co/BvMX7OCd6v— Drats Smithsonian (@Drats Smithsonian)1591861093.0
Bro, you can't lie that a WOMEN as a COP, doesn't know what a tampon is. This is just purely humiliation, like she'… https://t.co/KmSFXODY4V— Babycolecole (@Babycolecole)1591892372.0
The cop was female. Meaning she knew damn well what a tampon is. Meaning she knew what the fck she was doing by pul… https://t.co/2yCPL428TZ— 𓆏 𝕸𝕰𝕷𝕺𝕹 𝕷𝕺𝕽𝕯 𓆈 (@𓆏 𝕸𝕰𝕷𝕺𝕹 𝕷𝕺𝕽𝕯 𓆈)1591863461.0
Did you hear about the incident when it initially happened? What are your thoughts on the outcome?