A federal appeals court reprimanded Florida police earlier this week for mounting a warrantless, SWAT-style raid on a local barbershop for the purpose of assisting state inspectors investigating the shop’s barber’s licenses. The court ruled that the illegal raid violated state law as well as the fourth amendment.
“We have twice held, on facts disturbingly similar to those presented here, that a criminal raid executed under the guise of an administrative inspection is constitutionally unreasonable,” says the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. “We hope that the third time will be the charm.”
On August 19, 2010, two inspectors working for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) visited Orlando’s Strictly Skillz Barbershop to check that the shop was in compliance with state regulations and all of the barber’s had proper licensing.
Everything was in order, so they left, but only to return two days later without any new evidence of wrongdoing, violating DBPR policy to only conduct investigations of an establishment once in two years.
This time, the inspectors were flanked by an extra eight to ten officers, including narcotics agents, some wearing masks and bulletproof vests with guns drawn, rushing into the shop “like [a] SWAT team.”
Officers ordered all the customers to leave and handcuffed shop owner Brian Perry and two other barbers before searching the place. They demanded again to see verification of their licensing before releasing the three about an hour later.
The raid, and similar ones performed on other barbershops that day, was part of an operation proposed by Inspector Amanda Fields and Cpl. Keith Vidler of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) in hopes of finding drugs, gathering intelligence, and finding confidential informants.
All of the barbershops targeted, according to the court “were apparently selected because they or barbers within them had on previous occasions failed to cooperate with DBPR inspectors… All of the targeted barbershops were businesses that serviced primarily African-American and Hispanic clientele.”