Housing officials in Colorado are drawing scrutiny for inviting police officers to conduct warrant-free searches of homes in a low-income housing project.
Per the Washington Post’s Radley Balko, a report from Colorado news station 9News reveals that Longmont, Colorado’s Housing Authority invited police to search residential units at a local apartment complex in the name of training drug-sniffing police dogs.
While this was billed as a training exercise, however, any drugs discovered by the dogs on the premises would bear negative legal consequences for residents of the apartments.
The Housing Authority notified residents that police officers would be coming through for random inspections with drug-sniffing dogs, but it didn’t tell residents that they have the right to deny the officers entry into their homes.
“The letter to residents of The Suites low-income housing community starts with standard stuff, notifying them of an inspection,” explains 9News. “Then it mentions that the police officer and drug dog. Nowhere in the letter are residents told that while they must let the landlord in, they do not have to allow the police officer and drug dog inside without a warrant. And then, if the officer does come inside, anything they find is fair game.”
Krystal Winship Erazo, the head of the apartment complex, told 9News that she decided to invite the officers to train their dogs there after hearing “rumors” about drugs within the building.
“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,” she said. “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.”