SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — More than a dozen exotic dancers who claimed their constitutional rights were violated during raids at two local strip clubs have been awarded nearly $1.5 million by the City of San Diego.
The 17 dancers from Exposé and Cheetah's Gentleman's Club have sought damages from what they claimed where humiliating searches and for being held against their will by San Diego Police officers during searches on July 23, 2013, and March 3, 2014.
City Council leaders Tuesday approved two settlements for two lawsuits over the raids. One settlement awarded $110,000 to one dancer while the second settlement awarded $1.4 million to 16 dancers, attorney Dan Gilleon, who represents the 16 dancers, confirmed.
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Cheetah's dancers claim officers swarmed the building in 2014 with bulletproof vests and guns and ordered dancers to the dressing rooms. There, they reportedly checked that all 30 dancers had proper city permits and were in compliance to work at the strip club.
Dancers also say officers forced them to line up, expose body parts, and have their tattoos photographed. Surveillance video showed officers lining up dancers to be photographed and taking their information.
"I felt like it was really, really, like, uncomfortable," dancer Brittany Murphy told 10News in 2014. "I don't understand why I have to get my picture taken. I asked them if it was of my face and they said yes. So, I got up against the locker and [the officer] is standing really far. She's taking a photo of my entire body."
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Murphy argued her permit card already had her photo and officers would not let dancers leave and instead, questioned them about personal information.
San Diego Police has said the raid was part of "police-regulated business" and random inspections, and that any photographs taken were for investigative purposes.
"One of the many responsibilities of the San Diego Police Department’s Vice Unit is to conduct random inspections of strip clubs to ensure dancers are complying with the law and that they have an entertainers permit," SDPD Lt. Kevin Mayer told 10News in a 2014 statement. "In most cases, Vice Unit detectives do not require or request clubs to shut down. Photographs of the entertainers permit and the person in possession of it are taken for investigative purposes."
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The raids set off a national debate regarding constitutional rights.
Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled the dancers' First Amendment rights were violated by the city's municipal code allowing inspections of police-regulated businesses.
The judge, however, stopped short of ruling on their claim the city violated their Fourth Amendment rights on unreasonable searches and seizures.