KUSA - Internal emails reveal the truth behind the Constitutionally questionable searches of low income apartments in Longmont.
Next went through 300 pages of email about the Longmont Housing Authority, which show that searches with K-9 officers took place at a separate facility, which inspired the searches at The Suites.
Tenants complained about "check-ins" that were pitched as "random," last week. Through the emails we requested through the Colorado Open Records Act, we found that those searches were not really "check-ins" nor "random."
Key takeaways from the emails:
Searches inspired by another Housing Authority complex:
- In an email on April 12, Krystal Winship Erazo, the operations director of the Longmont Housing Authority, wrote to a Longmont Police Officer, "Do you still have any interest in having your K9 come by the Suites? It's working well at Briarwood. We'd love to have you."
- It turns out Briarwood is a small housing complex for offenders on probation, and police have the authority to search their apartments because of their offender status. That is not true at The Suites, where not all residents are on probation.
In an email on May 9, Erazo wrote to a Longmont Police Officer, "We've noticed about 20 residents for a monthly 'unit check' tomorrow. 8 of them we would like your K-9 to accompany based on unverified rumors. I'm aware the resident may need to grant you access to the unit."
- In an email on May 24, Alma Collins, the manager of The Suites wrote to a Longmont Police Officer, "We will just need to follow up with the two apartments who were hot last time, and maybe do a couple more random units?"
- Six searches happened in May, and in three of those, the Housing Authority notated some sort of "hit" by the K9.
A log list of inspections showed:
- Unit 7223: "dog alerted to MJ use in apartment." (MJ stands for marijuana)
- Unit 7301: "dog alerted to narcotics around toilet (likely flushed before we entered)."
Unit 7327: "dog alerted to substances in bedroom; C and T deny; had conversation with them, alerted her PO; will follow up with K-9 next month."
- "T" in unit 7327 is Tamika McClure, who Next interview last week. She told us that she initially told the officers that they could not enter her apartment, but management told her they could, they just would not be able to open any drawers. As a result of her story, the police initiated an internal investigation which turned into an independent investigation that the city is trying to outsource to a police organization outside of Boulder County.
- McClure also called her probation officer after the officers were in her unit. She said that she was told she did not need to report that.
- In an email on June 1, Collins wrote to a Longmont Police Officer, "It would be great if we could have on (sic) of y'all out for 4 units on Wednesday. We found a baggie outside today with something in it, and we suspect it came from one of 4 people."
- In an email on May 9, Erazo wrote to a Longmont Police Officer, "We've noticed about 20 residents for a monthly 'unit check' tomorrow. 8 of them we would like your K-9 to accompany based on unverified rumors. I'm aware the resident may need to grant you access to the unit."
The Suites management unaware of tenants' rights
- In an email on June 5, before a tenant reached out to 9NEWS about the search notice she received, Collins wrote an email which said in part, "he (and other tenants as well) have expressed displeasure about the K-9's. He insists that it is a violation of his rights/the constitution (sic) and that K-9s will not enter his unit without a warrant. Same from some other tenants as well. I have tried to explain that as part of the lease, we are authorized to enter units for purposes of inspection and emergencies. I don't know enough about the law around warrants/K-9s/searches, etc. to explain any more. (sic)"
- In a reply, Erazo wrote, "The K9's and officers would not be able to enter on their own without resident consent."
Collins wrote back, "I was not aware that residents had to give consent for K-9s. That's good info to pass on, and will probably help reduce upset about it."
Longmont Mayor responds incorrectly to a constituent
- After watching our coverage, a woman who identified herself as a Longmont resident and someone who received low income housing assistance, told the Mayor she was flabbergasted by the story about the searches.
In his reply, Mayor Dennis Coombs wrote, "Fortunately these searches never ever happened and will never happen."
- A city spokesman let us know that the Mayor wrote back to that constituent and apologized for getting that wrong. In a statement to Next, the Mayor wrote:
"I am deeply concerned about the searches conducted at the Suites Supportive Housing Development. I know how they were perceived, and am very sorry. The City is fully invested in the independent investigation now underway and is in the process of re-looking at how we more appropriately partner with agencies like the LHA.
"I know that the police department has been shifting their philosophy to assisting individuals who need help rather than criminalizing each act. I believe the Longmont Police department was there to help the residents and the Longmont Housing Authority deal with drug issues in their community, not through hard-core enforcement, but through assistance programs like the Angel Initiative and other drug treatment programs."
Plans to hold a meeting and avoid 9NEWS coverage
- In an email on June 7, Longmont Housing Authority board member Bruce Robbins wrote, "I just received a call from Kyle Clark at 9News this afternoon, and I would imagine several other board members have been contacted as well. It's quite clear they are trying to make a national story about this."
- In an email on June 7, Longmont Housing Authority board member Peter Linder wrote, "If we give notices for a special meeting you can bet that Kyle Clark will be there. May need to look into protocol for executive session with our attorney so we can assess outside of the limelight."
Nine minutes later, Linder wrote, "Also, we may want to have in place now a protocol for answering any questions from Kyle Clark or 9NEWS. I think a good policy for the time being is no comment."
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