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The Santa Ana Police Department will launch an internal affairs investigation after being provided video clips showing officers engaging in questionable behavior during a police raid last month on a medical marijuana dispensary, Police Chief Carlos Rojas told Voice of OC this week.
Attorney Matthew Pappas, who edited and produced the clips before providing them to Voice of OC, says the video shows officers eating food laced with marijuana, known in pot lingo as “edibles,” and seized during the raid. Officers also played darts inside the pot shop while apparently completing an inventory of the shop’s contents. Pappas represents the shuttered Sky High Holistic dispensary where the video was recorded.
The clips also show officers dismantling video equipment and cameras, indicating they didn’t know other cameras continued to record their activities.
In one clip, an officer is seen eating what looks like a food bar and closely examining it while a plain-clothes officer is talking about edibles found in a safe. A different clip also shows the same plain-clothes officer unwrapping and consuming some sort of food bar.
One of the clips shows an officer saying she should have kicked a woman “in her fucking nob.” Before that comment, the video shows a scene of the same policewoman walking with a female amputee in a motorized wheelchair. In addition to playing darts, the clips also show officers hanging around and joking.
“Definitely there’s behavior, conduct I’m concerned about,” Rojas said.
However, Rojas added that because of the editing, it’s impossible to know if the behavior was taken out of context. The video doesn’t show where the alleged edibles came from, and it’s not completely clear whether the policewoman was referring to the amputee in her comment. The clip with officers throwing darts appears to repeat some of the same scenes more than once.
“I don’t know if that’s [a marijuana] edible. Where did [the officer] get it?” Rojas said. “Is that a protein bar or an edible?”
Rojas requested that Pappas turn over the full, unedited video to police to assist in the investigation.
Pappas says he doesn’t know definitively that the officers were eating marijuana edibles because he “can’t see the labels,” but points to one officer’s close scrutiny of the wrapper and other behavior as evidence that they were indeed getting high on the job.
“I believe they are consuming edibles and the behavior exhibited gives every indication that’s what they’d be doing,” Pappas said.
As for Rojas’ request for the full video, Pappas said officers would already have it if they hadn’t destroyed video equipment. He says he’s already complained to an internal affairs officer about “police issues” several weeks ago, but never got a response.
“I’m concerned this video is necessary to trigger an investigation,” Pappas said.
Voice of OC also requested the full unedited video, but was told that it was taken from a digital video recording machine and isn’t in “a recognizable format,” making it difficult to transfer.
Pappas added that he would soon be filing a lawsuit aimed at invalidating a voter-approved measure permitting 20 marijuana collectives to operate in an industrial section of the city.
“I’m filing a lawsuit, so [the police] can get the raw footage in discovery,” Pappas said.
Pappas claims the lawsuit will include evidence of a “high ranking city official” having a “pecuniary interest in the operations of a lottery winning collective,” and that this official, whom Pappas declined to name, likely had a hand in directing the police raids.
According to dispensary operators and city officials, dozens of marijuana shops had been operating in the city in recent years. Under the measure passed last November, the city held a lottery for collectives to win a chance at applying for a permit. The city deems all dispensaries without a permit to be operating illegally.
Pappas is also known for having successfully invalidated a medical marijuana lottery in a lawsuit against the city of Long Beach.
There are already at least seven other active lawsuits intended to cancel Santa Ana’s measure, and its implementation is currently barred under a temporary restraining order.