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ACLU and Longmont Reach $210K Settlement over Warrantless Searches

DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado and the City of Longmont jointly announced a settlement this morning on behalf of four individuals, Alice Boatner, Billy Sparling, Michael Kealy, and Christine Herrera, who were subjected to an illegal search of their residences at the Suites, a public housing complex in Longmont.  The searches were conducted in May by Longmont police officers and a K-9, in conjunction with the Longmont Housing Authority.  They were conducted without a warrant or any arguable exception to the warrant requirement.  None of the ACLU’s clients consented to the search or were given an opportunity to refuse the search.  The settlement resolves claims against the City of Longmont only, and there has been no resolution to date with the Longmont Housing Authority.

Key aspects of the settlement:

  • $210,000 total payment for damages and attorneys’ fees;
  • Release to the public of the Weld County Sheriff’s investigation report, likely by Dec. 31, 2017;
  • Public statement by the City of Longmont correcting past misstatements by acknowledging that the ACLU’s clients did not consent to the search and had no opportunity to refuse the officers’ entry;
  • Public forum in Longmont where the ACLU and its clients will have an opportunity to speak about the incident;
  • Availability of a restorative justice process to all clients; and an
  • Opportunity for ACLU input on Longmont Police Department policies related to searches.

Statement of ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Rebecca T. Wallace:

“The ACLU of Colorado commends the meaningful and genuine efforts by the City of Longmont to acknowledge the seriousness of the illegal searches at the Suites, to take corrective action, and to begin healing the wounds of our clients and the community.

“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.  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.

“The settlement includes several non-monetary components aimed at transparency and accountability that were—to his great credit—suggested by Chief Butler, including holding a public forum to discuss the searches and the opportunity for our clients to engage in a restorative justice process with the officers who violated their rights.  The City of Longmont also agreed to issue a public statement correcting past inaccurate statements about the searches, and – of particular importance to our clients – Chief Butler and City leadership gave them a personal and heartfelt apology

“The ACLU, our clients, and the public now await public release of the Weld County investigation report and Chief Butler’s decision regarding discipline of the involved officers, both of which are essential to the principals of transparency and accountability.

“While this settlement resolves our clients’ claims against the City of Longmont, the Longmont Housing Authority shares at least as much blame for the illegal searches.   LHA must still be held to task for its violation of our clients’ rights and trust.”

Statement of Alice Boatner, ACLU client:

“I did not have any opportunity to stop a police officer and K-9 from coming into my home and searching it.  I felt violated, powerless and demeaned.  Thanks to this agreement and Chief Butler’s actions, I can now begin to heal.”

Resources:

View the settlement agreement: https://aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/LongmontSettlementAgreementfully-executed-2017-11-08.pdf

View the ACLU’s notice of claims against the Longmont Housing Authority: https://aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Longmont-Notice-to-LHA.pdf

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The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.



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