Pot-Munching Cops Too High To Destroy All The Hidden Cameras, Oops
Today our parable comes from the Book Of Chootzpah: In the Year Of the Bad Cop, the City of Santa Ana did decide that there were too many medical marijuana dispensaries operating without a license, and lo, they did send Centurions to bust some Stoners. And it came to pass that the Centurions did break down the doors of a dispensary that was already open for business, and with guns drawn did raid the place, then proceed to tear down all the security cameras. But lo, they missed one, and what a wonder did it behold: The Centurionsdid partake of the edibles, and found them Good. And thus were the Centurions Busted.
Except for the part with the cops being busted, that is. There's an investigation into the May 26 incident, but nobody's actually been arrested, except of course for the dispensary owners, who, as Conor Friedersdof at The Atlantic notes, could have just been served with a warrant instead of subjected to a battering-ram raid with guns drawn, for a misdemeanor licensing offense:
As a result, customers at Sky High Holistic marijuana dispensary had a terrifying experience: While browsing the pot shop’s products, they suddenly heard someone busting in the door. Seconds later, men were rushing into the room with guns drawn. Some wore masks. Frightened patrons quickly lay face down on the ground. [...]
But needlessly endangering the public was just the beginning of the dubious conduct. A surveillance camera recorded officers disconnecting the shop’s surveillance cameras. Under the impression that they’d got them all and were only accountable to fellow police officers, the cops discredited themselves in footage destined for YouTube:
And what a video it is!
Among other highlights, the video shows officers munching on pot edibles; the OC Weekly transcribed a couple of them talking about the quality:
"Those candy bars are pretty good," one of the cops remarks at 8: 08 p.m., speaking with his mouth full. "I kinda feel light-headed though."
And then there's the charming conversation about one of the customers in the dispensary, Marla James, a local marijuana activist who needs an electric wheelchair after having one of her legs amputated:
Male Cop: Did you punch that one-legged old benita?
Female Cop, laughing: I was about to kick her in her fucking nub.
And then there's the fun backstory part, revealed in a longer version of the video obtained by the OC Weekly . One of the cops brags about being a drinking buddy of Judge John Fish, who signed the warrant for the raid, and reminisces about good times with Fish back when he was a district attorney:
“He's the judge that signed our warrant,” the first officer continues, adding that he had just spoken with Judge Fish and had enjoyed a good laugh with him about their old times together. “He's the fucker that pulled into a gas station on our way to the Staples Center and goes, ‘Let's buy some beers and drink 'em out of a red cup.’ I go, ‘That’s not going to be obvious.’ There we are at an am/pm getting styrofoam cups and pouring our beers into them. That fucking blew me away.”
Good times, man.
But here's the crowning Moment of Chutzpah: In response to the internal investigation, the Santa Ana police union has sued to prevent the video, which has been going viral on the YouTubes, from being used against the officers, because it's just NOT FAIR. The Orange County Register sums up the lawsuit thusly:
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.
Yes, the cops say they can't be prosecuted because they thought they had destroyed all the evidence, and it's really unfair to use video from the camera they didn't know about. Why, the dispensary owners, who they'd already arrested and sent away before prying the security cameras off the walls, didn't even have the common decency to let them know where the less visible cameras were! Therefore, they can't be held accountable for their actions, since their illegal behavior never would have come to light if the surviving cameras hadn't squealed on them. God knows none of the cops would have said anything, so this is a complete violation of their rights to do whatever they want as long as only other police are around.
This one should be fun to follow as it moves forward and the cops test the novel legal theory that since none of them would have ever revealed what they did, it's illegal to prosecute them.