Pot Dispensary Worker Sues Police for $1M Alleging Excessive Force
An employee of a Long Beach, California medical marijuana dispensary has filed a $1 million claim against the city following a raid in which Long Beach Police officers allegedly used excessive force.
Dramatic footage of the raid was captured by video surveillance equipment inside the dispensary, THC Downtown Collective. The video shows Dorian Brooks, the employee who filed the claim, surrendering to police by lying face-down on the floor. One officer then appears to step on Brooks’ back and neck before handcuffing him with the assistance of two more officers. Shortly after, the officers notice the security camera in the room, which they destroy.
Long Beach Police confiscated the video recording equipment they found on-site, but didn’t realize the video was being recorded at an off-site location. Days later, the footage of Brooks’ arrest was posted to YouTube, along with video of a police officer smashing a second camera and a brief tour of the ransacked shop.
“They noticed there was a camera that was on the wall right above my head, so they proceeded to smash it with a metal rod,” Brooks told NBC Los Angeles. “I wasn’t able to protect myself because my hands were cuffed. I felt violated; I felt disrespected.”
In addition to confiscating the video equipment and allegedly causing what THC Downtown Collective employees estimate to be tens of thousands of dollars in damage, Long Beach Police also confiscated computers, cash, an ATM and medical marijuana.
Long Beach Police spokesperson Lisa Massacani noted that the dispensary was operating without a city permit, adding that “a thorough review into what occurred during that operation will be conducted once all of the facts have been collected. This is a personnel matter and we are unable to discuss any further details.”
Raids against California medical marijuana dispensaries have occurred regularly since U.S. attorneys began cracking down on the industry last fall. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, but because marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, dispensaries and related businesses remain at risk.
But no federal authorities were involved in the THC Downtown Collective raid. According to LA Weekly, Matthew Pappas, an attorney for the dispensary, said that disputes between Long Beach City Hall and local dispensaries are nothing new.
“It’s just an ongoing escalating attack by people who I think are corrupt and are simply attempting to put out of business those collectives who have not paid them protection money,” Pappas said. “I believe there is corruption in Long Beach.”
“These cops are most likely going to end up losing their jobs,” Grabel said. “Having video of the raid itself provides an ideal fact pattern. When the evidence is that favorable, there’s only so much the police can say to explain it.”
Grabel said that the success of an excessive force claim often comes down to the quality of the evidence.
“Ideally, you want to record the encounter if you somehow have the ability to do so,” Grabel said. “Do whatever you can to document and preserve the scene. It’s all about credibility, especially when you’re a criminal defendant and you’re not on the same playing field with the police.”
However, resisting arrest or disobeying an officer’s instructions in an effort to record the police can have tragic consequences.
“If you take out a phone, the police could mistake it for a weapon or claim that they mistook it for a weapon,” Grabel said. “For your own safety, it’s best to ask before making any moves in a situation like that. You’d have to be very careful if you did it covertly.
“Don’t fight the police. Let them be in charge. Just don’t say anything and ask to talk to a lawyer.”
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Do you think the Long Beach police officers used excessive force in their raid on the dispensary? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.