Remember when police in Santa Ana, Calif., raided an unpermitted medical marijuana dispensary and then trashed the business’ visible security cameras before kicking back in the empty shop — playing games of darts, possibly sampling the store’s cannabis-infused goods and saying they wanted to kick the shop’s 54-year-old wheelchair-bound amputee manager “in her f—ing nub”?
If you need a refresher, here’s our initial post from June — and two of the videos, taken by hidden security cameras the police officers failed to destroy in their guns-drawn raid.
The footage of the raid went viral shortly after its release, and since then a lawsuit has been filed by the dispensary’s patients against the city of Santa Ana and Mayor Miguel Pulido — and a Colorado ganjapreneur even teamed up with gangsta rap icon Too Short to gift the shop’s disabled manager a new $4,000 power wheelchair.
Now three of the unidentified Santa Ana police officers and their union are suing to keep the incriminating video footage away from an internal affairs investigation looking into the happenings at Sky High Holistics on May 26.
Folks at The Atlantic couldn’t believe this new wrinkle in a story that continues to surprise:
What’s new is the way that the cops caught misbehaving on camera and the police union that represents them have responded to an internal police investigation — not with embarrassment, contrition, and public apologies, as would befit trustworthy people of good character, but with shameless, discrediting chutzpah: They’ve sued to keep now public video of their indefensible behavior from their overseers!
The officers’ reasons for not wanting the video accepted as a part of the ongoing investigation: It was taken without their knowledge, and it was handled by the dispensary’s lawyer previous to its release.
Lawyers for police and the dispensary said the video – which has been widely seen on television and several online news sites, including ocregister.com – could play a key role in the ongoing investigation into the officers’ actions.
The lawyers disagree about the video’s accuracy and authenticity.
Matthew Pappas, a lawyer for Sky High, pointed to the irony of police seeking to shoot down the use of video as evidence in an investigation when they routinely use videos to investigate other crimes.
“It’s pretty pathetic for police to say if we don’t like something that it can’t be used as evidence,” Pappas said.
Corey W. Glave, a Hermosa Beach attorney representing the Santa Ana Police Officers Association and the three officers, said the video was taken without the officers’ knowledge and was handled by Pappas, among others, prior to being made public.
Glave said Pappas has altered the video in a way to make the police look bad.
“The attorney representing the drug dispensary intentionally has misrepresented what happened,” Glave said.
A spokesman for the Santa Ana Police Department told The Register that none of these officers have been fired, but the lawsuit alleges that the three officers have been threatened since the raids.
The lawsuit also says that “all police personnel present had a reasonable expectation that their conversations were no longer being recorded and the undercover officers, feeling that they were safe to do so, removed their masks” and that “without the illegal recordings, there would have been no internal investigation of any officer.”
But dispensary lawyer Pappas told The Register that the suit has no grounds: “They knew they were on video. … Just because they missed one camera doesn’t make it illegal.”
As The Atlantic points out, there are more than a few double-standards at play here:
To sum up: These police officers are complaining that after rushing into this business with guns drawn, forcing employees outside, and using a crowbar to pry visible surveillance cameras off the walls, they were not warned—by the same employees they forced out—that their efforts to disable all surveillance cameras failed, rendering their decision to eat the business’s products visible to its owners. As well, they’re arguing that, though on-duty cops, they had a reasonable expectation of privacy, having failed to account for their own incompetence at disabling surveillance.
But even more galling is that last bit about how “without the illegal recordings, there would have been no internal investigation of any officer,” as that’s only true if one assumes that all cops present would cover for one another’s egregious misbehavior and sign off on a police report that misrepresented the raid. That isn’t a bad assumption, given that police subculture is rife with cops who fail to report on the misconduct of fellow police officers, but it’s really something to see police officers invoke that reality, even implicitly, in an attempt to wriggle out of accountability.