As an Environmental Health and Safety professional and Tea Party activist, one of my concerns is overregulation of business.

For example, the permit process for various operations can be both expensive and time-consuming.  Failure to comply with complex regulatory requirements is potentially costly.  I rail the business-crushing California laws often.

However, I must note that none of my clients have ever had nearly nude pictures taken of them during inspections.

Some Legal Insurrection fans may recall that a couple of the 9-11 hijackers prepared for their suicide terror mission by visiting a strip club.  That establishment, Cheetahs, is now the center of a national debate about Fourth Amendment rights.

From 10 News San Diego: Questions raised after officers swarm Kearny Mesa strip club

A manager at Cheetahs strip club says his dancers felt violated by police who photographed them almost nude.

The mood at the strip club in Kearny Mesa quickly turned intense Thursday night when 10 officers swarmed the building with guns and bulletproof vests, interrupting business for a couple of hours.

“I didn’t know if it was a bank robbery or serial killer on the loose the way they had come in like that,” said manager Rich Buonantony.

Was it a raid? No! It was an inspection.

San Diego police Lt. Kevin Mayer issued this statement to 10 News:

One of the many responsibilities of the San Diego Police Department’s Vice Unit is to conduct random inspections of strip clubs to ensure dancers are complying with the law and that they have an entertainers permit. In most cases, Vice Unit detectives do not require or request clubs to shut down. Photographs of the entertainers permit and the person in possession of it are taken for investigative purposes.

According to an interview with the club’s proprietor on the LaDona Harvey Show, the permit fee to strip in this city is $400. It seems to me that as taxpaying citizens engaged in a legal activity, the entertainers should have been treated in a more dignified fashion.

“They asked us for our licenses and then took down our Social Security and had us line up in the back of the dressing rooms and take pictures,” said stripper Katelynn Delorie.

Delorie is a hairdresser by day and a stripper at night. She has a lot of tattoos and says that made things even worse.

“They made me feel like I was a gang member pretty much and they wanted to document every single one of my tattoos,” said Delorie.

Buonantony says he is happy to work with police but hopes they are more subtle about it next time and respect the dancers.

A Washington Post analysis by Radley Balko sums up my initial reaction to this story:

So this was a regulatory operation. But instead of sending a few bureaucrats to do the paperwork, the city of San Diego thought it appropriate to send a team of gun-toting cops to raid the place (similar to recent masked, militarized SWAT raids on massage parlors). Remember, according to the report, there was no suspicion of criminal activity here. This was a routine inspection. Which raises the question: Are all routine, regulatory inspections of San Diego businesses done with raid teams? Is it just strip clubs? Are strippers known for being dangerous? And if the photos were necessary for record-keeping purposes, why was it necessary to photograph the women while they weren’t wearing clothing?

Arguments have been made that the police needed those guns (strip clubs being not noted for the morality of their patrons); they had to go en mass to prevent strippers from leaving though the back door (God forbid a dancer not pay the $400); or, they were acting on a tip and wanted to avoid a warrant (so an “inspection was a good excuse to go in”).

However, per a poll at the San Diego Union Tribune, the rationalizations are not passing the smell test.

LI #01b poll

Balko offers this assessment about how best to judge the appropriateness of what occurred during this raid, referring to a 10 News video report in the article linked above:

It’s also puzzling why the TV station felt obligated to protect the identities of the police officers. If this was truly just a regulatory inspection, the cops wouldn’t be undercover officers. So what’s the point? This seems to be to be a pretty questionable use of that sort of force. The TV station obviously believes there’s at least an argument to be made that it was, or they wouldn’t have aired the story. TV stations air the names and photos of people suspected of crimes all the time. Yet police officers are public servants, who are authorized to carry guns, forcibly detain, and in some cases kill. There’s a strong argument that journalists should make every effort to expose the identities of officers who use force in questionable ways, not go out of their way to obscure them.

It’s nice to see a “mainstream media”  journalist finally questioning the potential abuse of power by authority, which has been noticeably lacking for some time.

However, as a tea party activist, I am consistent in my belief that overregulation is bad for business – any business. This “inspection” seems like a waste of police resources, cost a legally run business money, and seems to have violated the civil rights of the “inspectees”.

(Image from San Diego Union Tribune, Women promoted Cheetahs at Comic-Con on Thursday, July 12, 2012.)