San Diego will pay nearly $1.5 million to settle lawsuits filed by more than a dozen exotic dancers who claimed police violated their rights during strip club raids.
The city of San Diego on Tuesday agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million to settle a pair of lawsuits involving more than a dozen exotic dancers who claimed their constitutional rights were violated during raids at two San Diego strip clubs more than four years ago.
The 17 dancers who worked at Cheetahs Gentleman’s Club and Exposé, both in Kearny Mesa, claimed they were held against their will and subjected to demeaning searches by 10 San Diego police officers on July 15, 2013, and March 6, 2014.
News of the raids was picked up by several media outlets and sparked a national conversation about constitutional rights.
On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council approved two settlements in two lawsuits stemming from the raids. The first settlement awarded $110,000 to one dancer. The second awarded nearly $1.4 million to 16 dancers.
Attorney Dan Gilleon, who represented the 16 dancers, said the settlement was validating for his clients, who have long felt that their rights were violated. “I think now [city leaders] are learning that they can’t go out there and mistreat a bunch of women and think that the community isn’t going to care just because they choose to take their clothes off to make a living,” Gilleon said.
Hilary Nemchik, a spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office, said city authorities planned to review the processes that govern how police inspect strip clubs to see “if they can be improved and make changes as appropriate.” According to the complaint, the officers showed up in bulletproof vests and ordered the scantily-clad dancers into a dressing room. The officers then checked the women’s city-issued adult entertainer permits and asked about and photographed their tattoos and piercings.
Some of the officers “made arrogant and demeaning comments to the entertainers and ordered them to expose body parts so that they could ostensibly photograph their tattoos,” the complaint read.
The dancers said the process lasted more than an hour and that they were threatened with arrest when they asked to leave.
Lawyers for San Diego police initially asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the search and seizure was reasonable.