Are Puyallup, Wash., Cops Going Too Far in Videotaping DUI Suspects Changing Clothes?

Police have taped mostly female detainees changing clother, using toilet.

Nov. 8, 2013— -- In Puyallup, Wash., all eyes are on the city jail. The jail is equipped with video cameras, and police have been using them to take long, and some are claiming illegal, looks at some DUI -- driving under the influence -- suspects.

Early this year, defense attorney James Egan of Seattle was searching through public records for one of his DUI cases.

Egan discovered that police officers had been recording videos of mostly young women -- the majority detained for DUIs -- as they changed clothes and used the toilet.

"I've represented 1,000 people in DUIs, and I've never seen this," Egan told ABC News' "20/20." "This practice appears to be a peep show."

This May, Egan contacted 11 women and one male he found in his research, who were worried that the videos, which are public records, could go viral around the Internet. They have since taken the matter to court.

The 12 people Egan found in his research are suing the city of Puyallup, in addition to Puyallup police chief Bryan Jeter and lieutenant Edward Shannon, for allegedly violating their fundamental rights to bodily privacy and dignity and engaging in unlawful searches and seizures of the inmates detained within the Puyallup police department's jail.

Of those 12 plaintiffs, four agreed to speak with "20/20." All have requested anonymity.

"The fear, the embarrassment, the anger of knowing that somebody has these videos ... and it's happening to all these other women," Plaintiff 4 told "20/20."

The jail does have curtained-off areas for changing in private, but these women were all sent to a holding cell with a camera overhead and told to strip, leaving the women feeling violated, they said.

"I felt like a doll they were just dressing up and dressing down ... and I didn't have the fight in me to stand up for myself," said Plaintiff 4.

The women were made to change into jail clothes to have their mug shots taken, then returned to the holding cell and told to get dressed back into their own clothes before being released.

Julie Kays of the Connelly Law Firm, who is representing the plaintiffs along with James Egan, told "20/20," "If this were any Joe or Jane citizen that had committed this act, they'd be charged with the crime of voyeurism, plain and simple."

Nearly 40 women have now come forward with similar stories, convinced the cops are way out of line.

"I'm extremely angry. They're there to serve and protect and protect us, and they completely took advantage of each and every one of us," Plaintiff 4 explained.

At the time, some of the women thought the way they were treated was police protocol.

"I don't even think I really thought that that was something that was probably an ongoing recording, and, again, you're just -- you know, kind of assume that that's just what is normal," Plaintiff 1 told "20/20."

According to Capt. Scott Engle of the Puyallup City Jail, the video monitoring is legal and appropriate.

"When you step foot into a correctional institution, your expectation of privacy is greatly diminished," he told "20/20," [but] "we do not have officers sitting there monitoring the cameras when that type of activity's going on, and, in fact, all of these cases, there are no officers viewing the video or the monitor at any time through any of these allegations."

Engle also maintained that an internal investigation had found no evidence of any wrongdoing whatsoever by the officers. But the plaintiffs aren't buying it.

"It was really cold in there, and I asked for a blanket," Plaintiff 2 told "20/20."

"[The officer] told me ... if I do jumping jacks he'll be watching: 'Don't do jumping jacks naked 'cause I'll be watching.'"