A San Diego Police Department raid at Cheetahs strip club in Kearny Mesa left dancers feeling violated by officers who took semi-nude pictures of them.
Ten officers swarmed the club with guns and bulletproof vests and photographed 30 dancers as part of a random vice unit inspection, interrupting business for a couple of hours.
“I didn’t know whether it was a bank robbery or there was a serial killer loose the way that they had come in like that,” manager Rich Buonantony told the news station.
Katelynn Delorie, a hair dresser by day and a stripper at night, said police “asked us for our licenses and then took down our Social Security, our information and then had us all line up in the back of the dressing rooms and take pictures.” The dancer said, “They made me feel like I was a gang member pretty much, and they wanted to document every single one of my tattoos.”
10News obtained surveillance footage that shows women lined up and a team of officers asking for their information.
SDPD police Lt. Kevin Mayer issued the following statement to 10News:
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. 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.
Buonantony told 10News that he’s willing to work with police but “hopes they are more subtle about it next time and respect the dancers.”
The matter gained national attention when Radley Balko, a Washington Post blogger, wrote:
So this was a regulatory operation. But instead of sending a few bureaucrats to do the paperwork, the city of San Diego thought it appropriate to send a team of gun-toting cops to raid the place (similar to recent masked, militarized SWAT raids on massage parlors). Remember, according to the report, there was no suspicion of criminal activity here. This was a routine inspection. Which raises the question: Are all routine, regulatory inspections of San Diego businesses done with raid teams? Is it just strip clubs? Are strippers known for being dangerous? And if the photos were necessary for record-keeping purposes, why was it necessary to photograph the women while they weren’t wearing clothing?