Twenty-five dancers at a San Diego strip club have filed a civil rights claim against the San Diego Police Department, claiming that police officers held them against their will and took revealing pictures of their tattoos.
Ten San Diego police officers raided the Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club in Kearny Mesa on March 6 to check 30 dancers’ permits, according to a claim filed by attorney Dan Gilleon.
During the check, the claim says the unidentified officers detained dancers against their will for about one hour without a warrant and without probable cause.
They ordered the women to pose in various positions so the police could photograph the tattoos on their nearly nude bodies, all the while making “arrogant and demanding comments” and telling the women to “smile,” the claim states.
"I got my pictures taken from at least my knees upwards, and I'm half dressed. I felt kind of violated and like my rights were not there," said dancer Brittany Murphy.
She said officers told her the photos needed to be updated, but she claims that can't be true.
Dancers' work permits are only good for a year, and photos and finger prints are taken each year when the permits are renewed.
Lt. Kevin Mayer said this officers' procedure is standard protocol and that they did not do anything inappropriate that night.
"The city municipal code mandates that the police department go out and conduct these inspections. Now to be an adult entertainer or to own a strip club -- those are both police regulated businesses, and to be in that profession you have to get a permit," Mayer said.
"So being that we're mandated to go out and conduct these inspections, the people and the holders of these permits are aware that these [checks] are coming," he added.
According to Mayer, the checks are vital because the work permits can be compromised.
Additionally, adult dancers often change their appearances, so documenting tattoos are critical to help them verify a person's identity or prove that they're giving false information, Mayer said.
But the civil rights claim said the officers went too far, violating the dancers’ civil rights by making them disclose private information like Social Security numbers and subjecting them to demeaning searches and seizures.
Cheetahs manager Rich Buonantony said this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
He claimed the women were helpless because if they said “no” to any part of the operation, their work permit and business licenses could be taken away.
The claim filed against the SDPD is for more than $10,000, though an exact dollar amount has not been released.
Gilleon told NBC 7 he expects the claim will be denied, at which point he will file a lawsuit. That whole process will take at least 45 days.