After months of complaints and investigation, several Gainesville Police Department officers were found inappropriately searching gentlemans’ club performers, including grabbing their underwear while on their body.
Three of the four officers investigated were found in violation of GPD protocol when they interacted with bikini bar Coconut Cabaret workers, according to a Feb. 10 internal affairs report.
Prior to the incident, Officer Spaulding reported to Coconut Cabaret due to a noise complaint July 31. The bar’s manager, James Rauch, was argumentative about the complaint and said they make sure that the business’s volume level is at the legal limit of 85 decibels.
Spaulding was going to issue him a written noise warning, when Spaulding realized that she did not have the form on her to do so. Corporal Shutterly and Officer Widmeyer were then called, and Officer Widmeyer issued the noise warning.
Corporal Shutterly returned to the bar Aug. 13 and entered its main door behind Rauch, despite him asking Shutterly to wait outside. Officer Spaulding and a male officer, Alvin, arrived soon after and followed Shutterly.
Shutterly told the business’ security, Eric Ramos, some of the dancers weren’t wearing enough clothing. Ramos told her he was just security and pointed to the owners.
The officers pulled Allison Robbins from the stage and told her they needed to measure her underwear to see if it violated city nudity ordinances.
The ordinance specifies partial covering of people anywhere selling alcoholic beverages.
Robbins asked if she could change into other clothes and give them the underwear to measure. They would go to the changing room, Spaulding said, but told Robbins she didn’t need to take off her clothes.
Law enforcement and Robbins went to the changing rooms, where Aliyha Nichols and Brittney Cunningham were on their break. Robbins asked if they were measuring everyone’s underwear, or just hers — the officers decided to measure everyone’s underwear in the room.
All the officers, including Alvin, remained in the dressing room as Shutterly measured the outfits. Corporal Shutterly had the dancers bend over so she could measure the width of their underwear. She pulled their thongs out herself to do so.
Cunningham said she was “bottom heavy” before officers measured her. In response, Shutterly said, “We’re going to get real close and personal, darling,” according to the internal affairs report.
None of the dancers were found in violation of the nudity ordinance after measuring.
When the women asked if measurement checks were routine, Shutterly said GPD received reports one of the performers was nude.
Dispatch reports showed there was never a complaint about a naked dancer, nor did any officer claim to see a naked dancer there prior, according to the internal affairs report.
Both at the time of the search and after the investigation, neither Rauch nor owner Anthony Grezlik said they heard of any issues regarding nudity.
“We have never had any nudity at Coconut Cabaret — it’s illegal, I have a liquor license,” Grezlik said. “No nudity happens unless it is in the dressing room and people are getting dressed into a different outfit.”
While waiting for another performer to come down from the stage, officers were talking negatively about Rauch. Officer Alvin rolled his eyes and said, “I’m not in the mood for no old white man bullshit.”
They left shortly after.
GPD received formal complaints Aug. 23 from the dancers and owners regarding the officers’ search.
The performers argued that Officer Spaulding’s actions felt violating and singled them out — the women said they only were compliant because it was law enforcement.
As a former police officer himself, Grezlik thought the search was especially disappointing.
“This whole situation bothers me,” Grezlik said. “I don’t trust my local police department… I’m a retired law enforcement officer, I shouldn’t have to feel this way about the police in my area.”
Internal affairs conducted a six-month-long investigation and concluded there was no found evidence that proved Officer Spaulding of harassment and/or retaliation toward manager Rauch for the previous noise complaints his business held.
Internal affairs Sergeant Leah Hayes found Corporal Shutterly in violation for invasive search and reach toward the women.
Sergeant Wagle’s lack of direction and coordination of the entire operation was the cause of the many violations made by the different officers. Thus, he was similarly found in violation.
Due to Officer Alvin’s unprofessional comment about Rauch in regards to his age, race or gender, internal affairs found Alvin in violation.
Alvin, Wagle and Shutterly received written warnings. No additional punishment was listed, according to the internal affairs report.
Grelik thought the internal affairs investigation was thorough and well-done, he said, but believed the punishment should have been stronger than a warning.
“Written reprimands, I don't think, is a good enough punishment to deter future events like this,” Grezlik said.
Nichols hasn’t come back to work since the incident, Grezlik said.
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Emma Parker is a first-year journalism student. She is the metro desk news assistant. When she is not writing, she is reading a book or listening to Indie music.