Longmont today announced that it has agreed to pay $210,000 to four tenants of The Suites and their ACLU attorneys as part of a settlement following warrantless police dog searches at the low-income apartment complex earlier this year.
The Longmont Department of Public Safety admitted that the four tenants did not consent to the searches of their apartments and were not given the opportunity to refuse the searches.
“I did not have any opportunity to stop a police officer and K-9 from coming into my home and searching it,” Suites resident Alice Boatner said in an ACLU news release confirming the settlement. “I felt violated, powerless and demeaned. Thanks to this agreement and Chief (Mike) Butler’s actions, I can now begin to heal.”
On May 10, the Longmont Police K-9 unit, at the request of the Longmont Housing Authority, searched tenant apartments located within The Suites Supportive Housing complex. Housing authority staff members said they were responding to complaints of drugs.
Then, on June 6, the community learned of a second round of searches planned for June 7. Police subsequently canceled those searches. The city requested an outside investigation.
According to a news release sent by Deputy Chief Jeff Satur, the city, as part of the settlement, plans to participate in a public forum with the ACLU and the plaintiffs, participate in a restorative process if desired, and release the report of the independent investigation conducted by the Weld County Sheriff’s Office.
The ACLU said that report likely will be released by Dec. 31.
The Times-Call’s request under the Colorado Open Records Act for the 40-page Weld County investigative report previously was denied by Longmont officials, who said that it would not be in the public’s interest to release the document. A summary of the report was released instead.
The investigation, in summary, concluded in July that procedures used to establish consent during the warrantless searches were not consistent with the police department’s standards.
Shortly after, the Longmont Housing Authority’s attorney concluded as part of his own investigation that police should have known better than to accompany property managers during warrantless inspections.
The full statement released Tuesday by Longmont police is as follows:
“The Longmont Public Safety Department regrets playing a role in the search of apartments of the residents of The Suites on May 10, 2017. Michael Kealy, Alice Boatner, William Sparling and Christine Herrera did not consent to the police searches of their apartments, nor were they given an opportunity by Longmont Police Services to do so. The Longmont Public Safety Department is working, and will continue to work, to ensure that its Police Officers conduct themselves in keeping with Longmont police policies and the Fourth Amendment. The City of Longmont believes this settlement is in the best interests of all parties and our community, and we want to thank all involved for their participation.”
The ACLU, in a separate news release, said the settlement resolves claims against Longmont, but not the Longmont Housing Authority, which manages The Suites at 2000 Sunset Way.
LHA Executive Director Michael Reis was not immediately reached for comment.
The ACLU’s statement:
“A settlement without litigation was possible only because of the goodwill and commitment to accountability and improvement that the city of Longmont brought to the process,” said Rebecca Wallace, an attorney with the ACLU of Colorado. “It was Longmont Public Safety Chief Mike Butler who first contacted the ACLU and expressed his regret for what occurred and his desire to heal the rift in trust between his department and the community. Since the incident, Chief Butler has re-trained his entire staff on the requirements for lawful searches, emphasizing what constitutes voluntary consent. The city also pushed for a prompt settlement process that avoided litigation and allowed for faster resolution.”