Attorney says new photos illustrate treatment of dancers during SDPD strip club inspections

SAN DIEGO - New photos obtained by 10News were taken to recreate controversial strip club inspections that have sparked national headlines and a lawsuit.

In the photos, released by attorney Dan Gilleon, exotic dancers are lined up in the same locker room and standing in the same poses that they were held in during the police raids earlier this year.

Some 30 strippers at Cheetahs and Club Expose have filed suit against the San Diego Police Department and the city of San Diego, claiming they were held against their will and mistreated during inspections. Surveillance video shows the photos being taken.

Gilleon said the women were subjected to demeaning remarks, lined up and then asked to expose body parts so police could catalog things like tattoos.

"There are male officers just watching the whole thing … just watching and observing," said Gilleon.

Police have said the dancers were not mistreated.

Reporter Michael Chen asked, "When it comes to these dancers being offended by these photos, some will scratch their heads. Your response?"

"It's the same thing as saying a prostitute is fair game for sexual assault because that's her job," GIlleon responded.

The lawsuit is based on the Fourth Amendment -- unreasonable search and seizure -- and a new law in California aimed at paparazzi that makes it illegal to detain someone to take their photo.

Gilleon had the photos taken to illustrate the treatment of the dancers. He intends to get the actual photos during the lawsuit process.

Chen asked, "Are these photos intended to force a lucrative settlement?"

"No … We're gearing up for trial, not a settlement. These photos are meant to show these women were not treated with dignity and respect," said Gilleon.

The dancers are suing for $1.5 million, or $50,000 each.

Police recently said they have launched an internal investigation into their strip club inspections.

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman released the following statement to 10News:

A number of particular businesses and industries are subject to police regulation in San Diego.  This includes the adult entertainment industry.  The San Diego Municipal Code establishes certain minimum standards for that industry.  San Diego’s regulations are not intended to deny adults access to adult-oriented materials protected by the First Amendment, or to deny the adult entertainment industry access to its intended market.  Rather, they are written to protect the public order and the general welfare.  Specifically, the regulations are designed to “prevent prostitution, lewd acts, money laundering, organized crime, deterioration of neighborhoods, and reduce crime….”  SDMC § 33.3601.

San Diego’s regulations require adult entertainment establishments and individual entertainers to obtain permits, and agree to various permit conditions -- including inspections.  The inspections currently being challenged complied with all permit conditions.  Additionally, only female officers took photographs, which included the entertainers’ faces and some tattoos.  No photograph depicted any body part that would normally be covered by ordinary female swim wear.  Facial photographs and tattoo photographs are both needed for our records, because entertainers sometimes use aliases and wear wigs, colored contact lenses, make-up, and costumes to conceal or change their identities.

I have spoken with the City Attorney’s office, which intends to vigorously defend these lawsuits and all officers involved.

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