The footage of the September 2017 incident begins with the pat-down. After the officer — Sean Lojacono — reaches up to the genitals of MB Cottingham, 39, Cottingham stumbles in shock. "Why are you grabbing my s**t? Come on man. Hold, you just stuck your finger in my a**," he complains.
The officer then handcuffs Cottingham and grabs him again, saying, "I'm outside your pants, relax."
Then, he takes the handcuffs off Cottingham and leaves."It's bad enough that members of my community are stopped and frisked by the police all the time. I've been frisked many times and even beaten by police. But this officer treated me like I'm not even a human being," Cottingham said after filing suit in July.
The lawsuit accused the officer of violating Cottingham's Fourth Amendment rights, which protect Americans from "unreasonable" searches and seizures.
"This shocking and unjustified invasion of Mr. Cottingham's privacy was a violation of his constitutional rights and basic dignity," ACLU-DC Senior Staff Attorney Scott Michelman said in a statement at the time, Sputnik News reported.
It's difficult to say how common such invasive stop and frisks are "because we really don't have data, and MPD has been very opaque about things, but anecdotally we hear all the time about police stopping and frisking people, harassing people when they do a stop and frisk, which they call a ‘protective pat-down,'" Greg Montross, policy director at the Stop Police Terror Project DC, a local police accountability activist group, told Sputnik News Friday.
The City of DC admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement.
Sputnik News reported that even MPD Chief Peter Newsham, who has previously expressed frustration over, and allegedly violated, constitutional standards, said "it looked like it was an inappropriate touching by the officer."
In September, MPD said it was in the process of firing the officer who conducted the searches on Cottingham, but according to the local ACLU branch, he's still on the force, albeit on desk duty as he fights his firing.
"I think it's a positive step that they moved to fire this officer, but we understand that he has an extensive disciplinary history and he was left on the force until something got a lot of public attention, and that's when they moved. This could have been prevented much earlier on," Montross said.
"I would say that this was sexual assault. And we're not going to see a criminal prosecution of this officer," he added.
Montross said that filming the police is "something individual residents can do and that is extremely helpful in ensuring accountability, but MPD should be doing more to police itself."
"When there's no video evidence, nothing happens. The response to this case, the fact that they settled, the fact that there was a lawsuit, press attention and the fact that they moved to terminate this officer are all exceptions to the rule," he added.
"We need more from our government, from the council, from the mayor especially, and we need real change at MPD," Montross said.