The Santa Ana Police Department can use a surveillance video in an internal affairs investigation over officers’ actions in a high profile pot shop raid, a judge has decided.
Santa Ana police made national headlines in June when a video recorded from a hidden camera showed officers making derogatory remarks about a disabled woman and purportedly eating pot edibles during a raid at Sky High Collective.
Arguing that the officers’ privacy rights were violated, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association and three unidentified officers filed a temporary restraining order against the city and police department to prevent internal affairs investigators from using the video to determine if department polices were violated.
When officers raided the store, they disabled all the surveillance cameras and moved the customers outside, but they missed a hidden camera on a shelf. The police union said officers had a reasonable expectation of privacy since they didn’t know they were being recorded.
But in a three-page ruling released Wednesday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer rejected the restraining order, stating that officers did not have a reasonable privacy expectation since they were on-duty at the time.
“While the officers have declared that they expected privacy, the court has concluded that they had no objectively reasonable expectation that their words and actions would not be observed,” Bauer wrote.
“They should not expect privacy in their on-duty performance of an official function at a marijuana dispensary. They have made no claim that their work required secrecy or that it would be impeded by public review.”
While the judge has quashed the temporary restraining order, the Santa Ana Police Union has the option to continue to fight the case. Attorney Corey Glave, who represents the union and the three officers, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Santa Ana Police Union President John Franks declined comment.
Attorney Matthew Pappas, who is representing Sky High in a federal lawsuit against the police department, said the ruling sends a message that public officials can be held accountable for their actions.
“They can’t hide behind these types of laws to prevent themselves from being held accountable for their behavior,” Pappas said.
Pappas distributed clips and unedited versions of the May 26 raid to several television stations and online news organizations, including the Register in June.
In one of the video clips, Santa Ana police officers brandishing firearms, and some wearing masks, are seen breaking through the front door of the 17th Street medical marijuana dispensary and ordering at least a half-dozen customers to the floor.