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Pelham Police, Residents Discuss Strip Searches

PELHAM, N.Y. – Six years ago, New Jersey resident Albert Florence was arrested and strip searched in jail for an outstanding warrant and then transferred to another county jail and strip searched again. Yesterday, the United State Supreme Court was debating whether a strip search is constitutional.

Florence was held in jail for six days but later the charges against him were dismissed. He is now suing the two county jails that forced him to strip, arguing that his rights were violated at the time of his arrest.

In 1998, Florence had a conviction for a minor offense. He was late paying the fine, so a warrant was issued for his arrest. He then paid the fine and thought everything was okay. But in 2005, he was pulled over for a driving violation and the police said there were no records of him paying the fine, even though Florence provided a copy of the receipt.

Pelham Manor Police Chief Alfred Mosiello said having mandatory strip searches for all criminals is a touchy subject. Many criminals conceal weapons that cannot be found when patting them down, Mosiello said.

"As far as the police doing it routinely, it's a little extreme," Mosiello said.

Mosiello said the safety of the police should come first when handling prisoners. The severity of the crime means nothing, it really depends on the person's rap sheet, he explained.

Some Pelham residents have a different view than Chief Mosiello. Luigi Vingo, an employee at 5th and Lincoln Deli, said strip searching a person for a minor offense is a complete violation of civil liberties.

"If it's me and a cop, it's his word over mine," Vingo said. "I definitely think that it's not right."

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