Dan Gilleon answers questions on the police-raid case in March 2017 alongside former Cheetahs dancer Renee L. (left) and Mallory M.
Dan Gilleon answers questions on the police-raid case in March 2017 alongside former Cheetahs dancer Renee L. (left) and Mallory M. Photo by Ken Stone

The city of San Diego will pay nearly one and a half dozen exotic dancers nearly $1.5 million to settle claims police officers violated their civil rights during raids at their strip clubs.

The City Council approved a $1.4925 million payment Tuesday to settle two lawsuits filed by 17 dancers, ending a nearly five-year-long battle.

Raids at Cheetahs on July 15, 2013, and nearby Exposé on March 6, 2014, threw a national spotlight on San Diego police tactics — raising questions about constitutional rights and whether the dancers were held against their will.

In 2013, the civil suit alleges, about 15 San Diego police officers raided Cheetahs, wearing sidearms and bulletproof vests.

“Officers at the doors ordered entertainers who were arriving at Cheetahs to go to the dressing room, change into bra and panties and wait to be photographed and interrogated,” says the April 2015 amended suit seeking monetary damages that could total $1.5 million.

“Certain … officers made arrogant and demeaning comments to the entertainers, and ordered them to expose body parts so that they could ostensibly photograph their tattoos.”

The city admits that 10 officers in civilian clothing, some wearing holstered side arms and wearing protective vests, identified themselves as police.

“Immediately upon their arrival, the inspection team told Cheetah’s security personnel and managers why they were there; some officers were stationed outside the building’s exits and directed employees trying to leave to return for inspection; and female officers in the entertainers’ locker room checked the entertainers’ identification cards and information and photographed their faces and some tattoos,” said the city’s legal answer.

But the city denied any “unlawful, unconstitutional or otherwise wrongful conduct.” Separately, the city moved to revoke the adult-entertainment license for Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club, citing violations by dancers noted by undercover officers. Cheetah continues to operate.

In March, a federal judge ruled the city’s code violate the First Amendment because it doesn’t limit the power of police to use inspections to harass dancers and exotic dance clubs.

– Times of San Diego contributing editor Ken Stone contributed to this report