SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Thirty strippers in the San Diego area filed a lawsuit against the San Diego Police Department on Wednesday, saying they were forced to be photographed while nude or nearly nude while officers claimed to be inspecting the clubs where they worked.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of sexually tinged scandals involving the department.
In the strippers' case, attorney Dan Gilleon said officers made “arrogant and demeaning comments and ordered them to expose body parts to ostensibly photograph their tattoos.
“The police officers had no legitimate safety concerns, nor were the manner of the detentions commensurate with any articulatable threat,” he said.
Since 2012, four San Diego police officers have been charged with sexual assaults – two against more than five victims each. One was convicted at trial, another pleaded no contest, and two others are fighting the criminal charges filed against them.
Two more San Diego police officers, husband and wife, were arrested and charged with dealing prescription painkillers in June.
The strippers' complaint, filed in San Diego Superior Court, alleges that police officers violated the women's constitutional right to be protected from unreasonable searches in the three incidents at Cheetah’s and Expose clubs in March 2014 and in June 2013.
The suit also alleges that the incidents show that officers have been improperly trained.
In March, five officers showed up at Expose while 10 simultaneously arrived at Cheetah’s and went in the dressing rooms, where they required the women to remain “nearly nude,” the complaint said.
They were not allowed to leave the dressing rooms except to go to the locker room to have the pictures taken, the complaint states. It details a similar inspection at Cheetah's by 15 officers in June of 2013.
After the March incident, the police department defended the actions, saying that cataloging tattoos was an important part of identifying adult entertainers, who are required to have licenses.
After the raids, the American Civil Liberties Union San Diego and Imperial County Chapter warned the police department that the legal business inspections ended at the dressing room door and that detaining the women and photographing them violated their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of money for damages. On Wednesday, the department declined to comment, citing an ongoing internal investigation.
Editing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Ken Wills