Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated that a Superior Court judge was leaning towards issuing a temporary restraining order preventing the Santa Ana Police Department from using video of a pot shop raid in its internal investigation. We regret the error.
A Superior Court judge Tuesday is scheduled to consider a request for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the Santa Ana Police Department from using video of officers misbehaving during a pot shop raid as the department investigates the officers’ actions.
According to court documents, the attorney for the officers and Santa Ana Police Association claims that they would suffer “irreparable omearm” if the department is allowed to use video that the Santa Ana Police Association argues was obtained in an illegal eavesdropping operation.
(Update: the hearing was postponed until next Thursday. You can read about what happened in court here.)
The video in question was recorded during a May raid of Sky High Collective, a medical marijuana store that city officials say was operating illegally.
After the officers dismantled what they believed were all the store’s surveillance cameras — not noticing that other cameras were still recording them — they began eating what an attorney for the store owners said were medical marijuana edibles.
The video also shows officers playing darts, joking around, and mocking an amputee — with one officer saying she would kick the woman “in her fucking nob.” At one point, an officer talks about a trip to Staples Center he took with the judge who signed their search warrant, saying they stopped at a gas station on the way and poured beer into Styrofoam cups.
Then in a post published last month, the OC Weekly reported that it had obtained the full video showing more evidence that the officers were indeed consuming marijuana edibles.
When Voice of OC published the initial video and it went viral, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said the behavior was questionable and launched an internal affairs investigation.
Attorney Matthew Pappas, who released the video to Voice of OC and other media outlets, scoffed at the police officers’ argument that the video recording was illegal, according to an Orange County Register article on the officers’ attempts to quash the video.
From the Register:
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.
The hearing on the temporary restraining order begins at 8:30 am in dept. C18 at the central justice center in Santa Ana, according to court records.
Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek
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