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Cops Say Video Showing Them Maybe Eating Pot Edibles Invaded Their Privacy
Well, this sure is funny. Police officers who conducted a raid on a Santa Ana dispensary are trying to get surveillance footage that appears to show them eating edibles and making fun of an amputee thrown out. Why? They say the footage was an invasion of their privacy. Recording someone without their knowledge is, very true, an invasion of privacy. The California Invasion of Privacy Act does protect people from being recorded without their knowledge and consent in settings that would be considered private. For example, you can't go to someone's home with a hidden camera, or sneak a GoPro into a dressing room. You shouldn't be able to record a phone call without telling the other person. However, this rule doesn't apply to police. They can wear wires, tap phones and spy on us in the name of police work to catch us misbehaving. That's why it's pretty hilarious how upset three Santa Ana police officers are about those tables turning.
On May 26, a group of Santa Ana police officers raided Sky High Holistic, a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Ana. Shortly after the raid, Matthew Pappas, the shop's attorney, produced a shocking video. Taken from hidden surveillance cameras inside the dispensary, the edited footage appeared to show officers munching on edibles that made them "light-headed," reminiscing about drinking and driving, and making fun of a disabled customer that was in the store at the time of the raid.
An internal investigation was launched. Now, three Santa Ana police officers and Santa Ana Police Officers Association, their union, are suing in an attempt to have the video thrown out of the investigation, the OC Register reports. They filed the claim in Orange County Superior Court last week, and the three officers have not yet been publicly identified. Santa Ana Police Officer Association John Franks is arguing that the video shouldn't be considered during the internal investigation because the manner in which it was obtained wasn't legal.
In an email, Franks told the OC Register that while citizens who record cops in public are fine, "police conduct is private when there is an expectation of privacy [and] cannot be recorded by a non police officer. Because the video is illegal, the use of it by anyone, including the department to conduct an investigation, isn't proper."
The suit contends 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," according to the Washington Post. The suit also complains that the dispensary did not ask for their consent before recording them. It's probably hard to ask officers' consent when they just burst in your door with guns drawn and order you on the ground, as the video shows them doing. It seems like a thing that might slip your mind.
The suit also alleged that "in anticipation that the Dispensary would be raided, [they] placed additional hidden cameras in the Dispensary to record the communications (action and words) of law enforcement officers." A little presumptuous, perhaps, considering that the store may have been worried about being burgled, too.
The officers' attorney, Corey Glaves told the Huffington Post that one of the officers took and passed a drug test following the raid, and claims that the video was edited to make it looked like edibles were being eaten when they weren't.
Papps said he edited the footage because it was 12 hours long in total. However, those who have seen the unedited video say the behavior of the officers doesn't seem to have been fabricated.
"The notion they have some privacy right to then engage in illegal and improper activity on an unfettered basis with no accountability shows why there are big problems with police around the country—they think they're above the law," Pappas said.
Laurie Levenson, a lawyer and professor at Loyola Law School, told the OC Register that getting the footage thrown out is going to be tough for these cops. "They are obviously embarrassed by the video tapes. If they can't make them go away, they want to blame the people who made them. I don't think many people feel sorry for the officers in this situation."
The officers can be seen in the video dismantling other video cameras, but missed those that caught them in their alleged misdeeds. Levenson said this will make it hard for them to argue before a judge that they had any reason to think there wasn't a possibility they were being recorded.
Larry Rosenthal, a lawyer and law professor at Chapman University, told the OC Register that public officials should "have no exception that what you do will not be the subject to public scrutiny" when on the job. "I don't think it matters whether the cameras were destroyed or not. Thy were doing the public's business."
Sky High Holistic is suing the City of Santa Ana for use of excessive force, and they've also accused Mayor Miguel Pulido and others of soliciting and receiving money and gifts from other dispensaries in an exchange for a license to operate.
Once again, here's that edited video just for fun: