Heads roll after botched Orlando barbershop raids

ORLANDO, Florida Thu Dec 9, 2010 5:25pm EST

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Heads rolled at a Florida state agency after nearly three dozen black and Hispanic barbers in Orlando were handcuffed on criminal charges during recent botched raids by inspectors.

Three state regulators from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation who participated in the police raids were fired last week, state officials said.

A lawyer for several of the barbers said on Thursday he hoped the firings would lead to a civil rights settlement with the barbers.

"It obviously seems to suggest they (state government) think something went wrong," said Orlando lawyer Clint Johnson, who is seeking damages of $100,000 each for his clients. "We're hoping they'll do the right thing."

More than a dozen police stormed 40 barbershops in largely black and Hispanic neighborhoods between August and October. The officers did not have warrants and accompanied state inspectors who are permitted to arrive unannounced.

Some police wore masks, drew their guns and brought along police dogs, according to a report of the agency's Office of Inspector General.

Almost three dozen black and Hispanic barbers were handcuffed on criminal charges of barbering without an active license, a rarely used sanction.

The 50-page report on the botched raids said the inspectors acted unlawfully because they are not allowed to participate in sweep or sting operations with police. Inspections are intended to ensure safe and sanitary conditions in hair salons, the report said.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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