San Diego, Calif.- In a very quiet manner, the San Diego City Council approved payments and legal settlements to sixteen exotic dancers without discussion on the city council’s consent agenda Tuesday.
The council approved a $1,492,500 payment to the dancers and attorneys who claimed the officers harassed and violated the dancers civil rights.
San Diego Police Department officers questioned dancers at the Cheetahs and Expose clubs making sure the dancers were in compliance.
The dancers claim the license checks were an illegal use of police force because, and according to Attorney Dan Gilleon, herded the dancers into their dressing rooms, ordered them to change from street clothes to bras and underpants, took photos of their tattoos and piercings, and refused to let them leave.
One of the dancers joined the lawsuit because she felt the officers carried guns and wore bullet-proof vests, an unprovoked and unnecessary show of force.
"Not just a show of force like 'We can do this,' but 'We're going to do this and we're going to be jerks about it, and we're going to degrade you and humiliate you, and we're going to show you who's boss,’" the dancer said.
Gilleon, who represented the dancers, argued that the officers' use of force, threats, and involuntary detention violated his clients' basic legal rights.
Federal Judge James Lorenz agreed in part, ruling that "...using inspections as a means of harassing and discouraging adult entertainment businesses violated the First Amendment, on its face."
“You're never going to get the city attorney's office or the city of San Diego to admit they did anything wrong,” Gilleon said. “But when they pay $1.5 million, that's an admission."
Each dancer will receive about $55,000 from the city’s general fund, after deductions for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.
The police department, city attorney and mayor declined comment.