Wednesday, June 06, 2001

Federal profiling suit filed

Hamilton woman: Civil rights denied

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A black woman who claims she was a victim of racial profiling by two white Fairfield police officers filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday in federal court.

        Denise Thurmond, 37, of Hamilton, alleges civil-rights violations against officers Sandy Sears and Amy Gruenemeier in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

        The lawsuit claims the two officers violated Ms. Thurmond's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizureand her 14th Amendment due-process rights after she was stopped on suspicion of speeding in November in her red BMW 325i on U.S. 127 in Fairfield.

        The lawsuit alleges the officers used their authority to harass and intimidate Ms. Thurmond by forcing her to take a roadside sobriety test, repeatedly questioning her about having guns or drugs in her car, and eventually arresting her and impounding her car, all without probable cause.

        Ms. Thurmond, a former auxiliary police officer in Lincoln Heights with no criminal record, accuses the officers of stopping her merely because she was black and driving a luxury car.

        “It seemed to me that they (Fairfield officers) were determined to find something on me because I was a black female driving a nice car,” Ms. Thurmond said Tuesday afternoon at her attorney's office in downtown Cincinnati. “When I told them I was a police officer, they just laughed. They didn't want to believe me.”

        Calls to the Fairfield Police Department were not returned Tuesday afternoon.

        Ms. Thurmond is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial stemming from the Nov. 14 incident. Officers Sears and Gruenemeier stopped Ms. Thurmond about 3 a.m. as she was driving home after taking a friend to the hospital and picking up some groceries, which were still in her car, she said.

DUI charge dropped

        Ms. Thurmond appeared in Fairfield Municipal Court on Dec. 20, prepared to plead not guilty to charges of driving under the influence, she said. The charges were dropped.

        She said she pleaded guilty to a speeding charge and paid a fine.

        Her lawyer, Robert Newman, said racial profiling cases can be difficult to prove because they often boil down to the alleged victim's word against that of the officer or officers involved.


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