Longmont, CO — In the land of the free, police can and will raid the homes of innocent people without a warrant — in gross violation of their Constitutional rights — for the simple reason of training their dogs. While this claim sounds outlandish, it is entirely true, just ask the residents of Longmont, Colorado.
According to Longmont Housing Authority, police and officials contrived an idea to use the homes of low-income residents to train police drug dogs. Cops and their K9 counterparts entered the homes and searched families living within The Suites low-income housing unit — warrantlessly.
Tenants of The Suites were simply given a letter at some point before the raid notifying them that the landlord and police would be conducting an inspection.
As local NBC affiliate, News 9 put it, some powerful people in Longmont appear to have forgotten that the Constitution still exists.
Although the letter mentions the police and their dog, it doesn’t state anywhere on it that residents can refuse to allow police and the dog in. It also fails to mention that when the officer does illegally enter your home, anything they find while inside, is fair game to arrest you over.
The letter stated:
“This is a notice to visit your unit on Wednesday, May 10th, between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. It is helpful if you are present so we can visit with you personally, but it is not mandatory. Please note that we will occasionally have K-9 units with LPD accompany us for purposes of training and compliance. Apartments will be chosen at random. If you see the K-9, please don’t engage the dog, and please keep your dog on leash well away from the officer….”
Krystal Winship Erazo, director of operations of the Housing Authority told 9 News that they’ve never had a resident refuse the search as this ‘training’ happens on a regular basis. The Longmont police only reported a single incident of someone refusing the search and this is likely due to the fact that the residents are not informed of their rights prior to the search. They are simply guinea pigs for the cops.
“Two months ago, there were some rumors and some concerns about drug activity on the property and one way we found to address it was to invite a partnership with the Longmont Police Department – to invite the canines over on their training day,” Erazo said in an interview with 9NEWS. “Usually it helps the residents feel really secure in that we’re following up, we’re holding residents accountable, it’s an opportunity for the dogs to train.”
Let that sink in. The head of a public housing agency in Colorado just admitted to using the homes of poor people to train police and their dogs — to hold residents accountable.
Sadly, the only people who need to be held accountable in this situation are the police and the housing authority for their horrid constitutional violations.
Using actual human families in their actual homes — while simultaneously laying waste to their rights — to train dogs, speaks to the callous and dehumanizing nature of the Longmont police department.
As 9 News reports, they checked with several housing authorities in the metro area on Tuesday. The spokespeople for those organizations – including Denver and Aurora — said they don’t do this, have never heard of anyone doing this, and one housing authority official laughed out loud at the thought.
While the landlord maintains a right to inspect or otherwise enter the homes, police have no explicit right to conduct these searches. The fact that they do conduct these searches and admit to it so nonchalantly is chilling. Standing by their choice to allow police to violate the rights of their tenants, the housing authority thinks people shouldn’t have a problem with the warrantless searches unless they have something to hide.
— Kyle Clark (@KyleClark) June 6, 2017
“If there is concern, it kind of sparks some curiosity for me,” Erazo said. “You know, what are they concerned about if (the officers’) only job is to ensure there aren’t drugs in the unit?”
According to 9 News, Longmont Police originally told them they were comfortable with this arrangement, having participated in that previous round of searches, but late Tuesday, following questions, they said they’re finished.
As 9 News reports, this entire practice was exposed — and subsequently stopped — only because one of the residents knew their rights and cried foul.
This informed citizen knew that she didn’t have to submit to the warrantless searches, no matter what the housing authority said.
“This is a rights issue, not whether or not you have something to hide,” Ray Appling told 9 News. “There’s a police officer at your door. That’s very intimidating. You feel like, ‘Oh God, I have to comply. I have to let these people in and if I don’t, they’re going to think something and they’re going to look for a reason to get rid of me and I think that’s completely unfair and not right.”
The Free Thought Project would like to commend News 9 for being unafraid to question this tactic and call it what it is, unconstitutional.