SWAT Teams Raid Barber Shops Over Permits

I think the whole idea of getting a barber shop a “proper” government permit in order to be allowed to cut someone’s hair for money is absolutely ridiculous. It used to be that an inspector from some local government bureaucracy would walk in and inspect a place of business to check on permits and such. Now, they send in a small army, tell customers to leave, shut the place down indefinitely, handcuff the employees, and search the place. Upon finding out that the business does have the proper licensing, and that there is no evidence of criminal activity, they let the employees go free, and the place can reopen.

That’s exactly what happened at several barbershops in Orlando, Florida a few years ago, and the barbers at Strictly Skillz sued the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) for excessive force. Apparently, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation teamed up with the OCSD in cracking down on unlicensed hair-cutters. I can’t think of anything more important than that. Something’s got to be done about all those criminals cutting hair without government permission!

Thankfully, the judge sided with Strictly Skillz. The Orlando Sentinel reported:

 Deputies violated the rights of barbers at Strictly Skillz barbershop during a 2010 raid in the guise of a license inspection, a federal appeal court said this week, in a strongly-worded rebuke of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

“It was a scene right out of a Hollywood movie,” the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said in an opinion issued Tuesday, which puts the Pine Hills barbers’ lawsuit against the Orange County Sheriff’s Office back on track for trial.

“Unlike previous inspections of Strictly Skillz… the August 21 [2010] search was executed with a tremendous and disproportionate show of force, and no evidence exists that such force was justified,” the appellate opinion stated.

Capt. Angelo Nieves, a spokesman for Sheriff Jerry Demings, responded Wednesday with a brief statement: “We will allow the judicial process to proceed and work through the system, until it is resolved.”

The lawsuit stems from sweeps of several minority-owned barber shops and salons in 2010. Deputies partnered with the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation for what officials described as inspections.

Officials with both agencies said they targeted shops where inspectors had found resistance or witnessed crimes in the past. Deputies found little illegal activity, but jailed dozens on a “barbering without an active license” charge rarely used for arrests.

After an Orlando Sentinel investigation exposed the operations, both agencies launched reviews. The DBPR fired several employees and has since settled with the barbers. The Sheriff’s Office found no wrongdoing by deputies.

No illegal or unlicensed activity was found at Strictly Skillz, a small barbershop on Pine Hills Road.

Barbers there described masked deputies in bulletproof vests detaining barbers and clearing out customers, including children, on a busy back-to-school weekend.

Tuesday’s ruling came in response to an appeal by two deputies involved in the sweeps, who argued that as law-enforcement officers performing their duties they should be immune from civil action.

A three-judge panel for the appeal court rejected that argument Tuesday, with one judge dissenting.

Yeah, they should be “immune from civil action,” because they were just “doing their jobs.” They were only following orders. Isn’t that the defense the Nazis had? It didn’t work for them, and it shouldn’t work for these cops. Are they willing to do anything they’re ordered to do? Are they willing to violate their oaths of office, the Constitution, if that’s what’s required to get their paycheck?

What’s also outrageous about this is that an inspector had come in just days before the raid and had confirmed that the barbers had their proper form of government permission. They had their licenses:

The court’s opinion noted that a DBPR inspector confirmed the Strictly Skillz barbers had licenses days before the sweep.

The subsequent multi-agency raid “was unconstitutional from the moment that OCSO burst into Strictly Skillz in raid mode for the ostensible purpose of helping DBPR review… barbers’ licenses that it had just inspected two days earlier,” the court said.

It’s not just the Sheriff’s Department’s fault. As with so many problems these days, it’s the system itself. The fact that people in America, the land of the free, the land of opportunity, have to have government permission in order to cut someone else’s hair is a bigger problem than the fact that they send in the brute squad to “review barbers’ licenses.”