LONG­MONT SET­TLES CLAIM OVER SEARCHES

City set­tles claims over war­rant­less drug-dog searches at pub­lic hous­ing.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Christopher N. Osher

The city will pay $210,000 to re­solve claims brought by the ACLU for war­rant­less drug-dog searches. »

The city of Long­mont will pay $210,000 to re­solve claims brought by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Colorado on be­half of four peo­ple who were sub­jected to war­rant­less drug­dog searches of their apart­ments at a pub­lic hous­ing com­plex.

The set­tle­ment was on be­half of Alice Boat­ner, Billy Spar­ling, Michael Kealy and Chris­tine Her­rera. The ACLU and Long­mont of­fi­cials an­nounced the set­tle­ment Tues­day.

“I did not have any op­por­tu­nity to stop a po­lice of­fi­cer and K-9 from com­ing into my home and search­ing it,” Alice Boat­ner said in a pre­pared state­ment re­leased by the ACLU. “I felt vi­o­lated, pow­er­less and de­meaned.”

She thanked Long­mont Pub­lic Safety Chief Mike Butler, who has ex­pressed re­gret over the searches and has re­trained his staff on the re­quire­ments for law­ful searches.

The searches, con­ducted in May by Long­mont po­lice and a K-9 at The Suites Sup­port­ive Hous­ing Com­mu­nity, prompted na­tional con­tro­versy, one that the Long­mont Hous­ing Author­ity ad­mit­ted in one re­port had “co­a­lesced into a Cat­e­gory 5 storm.”

The ACLU of Colorado last week filed a no­tice of claim with the Long­mont Hous­ing Author­ity. The $210,000 set­tle­ment does not re­solve the claims against the hous­ing author­ity. The set­tle­ment will pay for da­m­ages and at­tor­neys’ fees.

As part of the set­tle­ment, Long­mont of­fi­cials agreed to is­sue a state­ment say­ing the city’s pub­lic safety de­part­ment “re­grets play­ing a role in the search of the apart­ments of the res­i­dents.”

The state­ment also added that the four res­i­dents “did not con­sent to the po­lice searches of their apart­ments, nor were they given an op­por­tu­nity by Long­mont Po­lice Ser­vices to do so.”

A heroin over­dose death of a res­i­dent in April caused the hous­ing author­ity to have Long­mont po­lice and their drug dogs par­tic­i­pate dur­ing monthly in­spec­tions of apart­ments at The Suites, ac­cord­ing to emails ob­tained un­der Colorado’s open-records laws. Those searches stoked a re­bel­lion from res­i­dents, who com­plained that doesn’t mean they give up rights pro­tect­ing them from il­le­gal searches.

Res­i­dents signed a pe­ti­tion protest­ing the searches. The con­flict then went pub­lic a day af­ter that pe­ti­tion when 9News ran a re­port. The news be­came na­tional af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Post high­lighted the searches in an opin­ion col­umn that stated, “Low-in­come peo­ple are not the equiv­a­lent of tack­ling dum­mies, or lab rats or vol­un­teers on some po­lice train­ing course. You can’t use poor peo­ple to train your po­lice dogs.”

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