Did you hear the one about the cops not wanting to use a store's surveillance tape to help solve a crime?
Who could blame these Santa Ana cops? Video shows them smashing surveillance cameras, badmouthing a woman in a wheelchair, and perhaps even munching on marijuana-infused products after they stormed a medical marijuana shop in Southern California, which was being investigated for allegedly operating unlawfully in the city.
Three of the unidentified cops are demanding that a judge block the police department from using the tapes against them as the department investigates the officers' conduct during the May raid. The cops at the center of the investigation say the Sky High Medical Marijuana Dispensary illegally recorded them because the officers believed they had disabled all the store's cameras and therefore had an expectation of privacy "that their conversations were no longer being recorded," according to the cops' Aug. 5 lawsuit. (PDF) The suit says the tapes were also "edited" and cannot be relied upon.
A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Monday in Orange County Superior Court.
The dispensary's attorney, Matthew Pappas, said in a telephone interview with Ars that "there is nothing doctored in those videos. Those videos are what the officers did."
"If officers concerned about the video showing something done being bad by them, they should not have broken the law during the raid," Pappas said.
The video shows the officers breaking through the door, ordering everybody down to the ground at gunpoint. The officers are also recorded playing darts and perhaps eating edible marijuana products. Two of them also joked about a wheelchair-bound amputee who was at the shop.
"Did you punch that one-legged old Benita?" one officer says.
Another replied: "I was about to kick her in her fucking nub:"
Pappas said he released two edited, short versions of the tapes to the media, one of which had added subtitles. But there is 14 hours worth of raw footage he turned over to the Santa Ana internal affairs investigators.
The three police officers trying to quash the tape contend the recording was illegal because, under California law, all parties to a confidential communication must consent to the recording.
Pappas said there are signs throughout the store notifying patrons that they were being monitored on video.
"This is outrageous," he said.
Pappas is suing (PDF) the department in federal court on behalf of the marijuana collective, and some of its patrons. The collective claims officers "were intentionally destructive and destroyed video surveillance equipment, safes, furniture, fixtures, doors, and other property at the collective." What's more, during the raid, "officers consumed food products that were the property of the collective," according to the suit.
Some of the patrons allege they "were detained for hours and placed in fear by officers."
by David Kravets
August 8, 2015
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