Via O.C. Register: Three Santa Ana police officers want to quash a surveillance video that shows officers making derogatory comments about a disabled woman and possibly snacking on pot edibles during a recent raid of a medical marijuana dispensary.
A lawsuit, filed last week in Orange County Superior Court by three unidentified police officers and the Santa Ana Police Officers Association, seeks to prevent Santa Ana Police Department internal affairs investigators from using the video as they sort out what happened during the May 26 raid of Sky High Collective.
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.
Pappas has provided the Register and Santa Ana police with two versions of the raid footage, a highlight reel and a version that he says is the full, unedited video.
In one of the shortened video clips, armed Santa Ana police officers, some wearing masks, are seen breaking through the front door of the 17th Street dispensary and ordering at least a half-dozen customers to the floor.
At the time, Santa Ana city law did not allow for the operation of marijuana dispensaries.
After entering the building, police are seen dismantling video cameras inside the store.
After most of the cameras are taken down, a camera they didn’t detect shows the officers talking about a woman with an amputated left leg who at the time of the raid was in her wheelchair inside the dispensary.
“Did you punch that one-legged old Benita,” a male officer asks a female officer, apparently referring to the woman in the wheelchair.
“I was about to kick her in her (expletive) nub,” the female officer replies, according to subtitles with the video.
In another clip – which Pappas has titled “Officers eating edibles and playing darts” – a voice can be heard asking, “What flavor?” before an officer is seen unwrapping a small package and putting something in his mouth.
The lawsuit argues that the video doesn’t paint a fair version of events. The suit also claims the video shouldn’t be used as evidence because, among other things, the police didn’t know they were on camera.
“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,” says the suit.
The dispensary also did not obtain consent of any officer to record them, the suit says.
“Without the illegal recordings, there would have been no internal investigation of any officer,” the suit says.
Pappas counters that the suit is baseless because the officers were aware the dispensary had video cameras and managed to disable most of them.
“They knew they were on video. … Just because they missed one camera doesn’t make it illegal.”
The city of Santa Ana, the Police Department and Chief Carlos Rojas are named as defendants. Officials with the Santa Ana Police Officers Association did not return phone calls seeking comment.
No officers have been terminated in connection with the ongoing internal affairs investigation, said Santa Ana police spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
The three officers have received threats since the raid and have incurred damages, including attorney’s fees and lost wages, according to the suit.
A hearing date for the case has not been set.
You can view the full article here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/police-675722-officers-video.html