Santa Ana police are under investigation for playing Disney songs in bystander video


The evening’s soundtrack began with “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, then switched to a newer favorite, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto, before the sentimental “Reflection.” “Mulan.”

It was around 11 p.m. on April 4 on a residential street in Santa Ana, California — and according to a YouTube video and news reports, the Disney songs smashed from a police cruiser. The police were investigating a stolen vehicle, an officer explains in the video. But after “Un Poco Loco” from the 2017 Disney film “Coco” started roaming the neighborhood, residents started asking questions.

“What’s the music for?” In the video, a woman can be heard explaining that she needs to sleep.

Seconds after the music seemed to cut off abruptly, Santa Ana City Councilman Johnathan Hernandez also asked, “What’s going on with the music here?”

The officer replied it had to do with “copyright infringement” as he pointed to the man filming the video. Hernandez took it that the officer tried to keep the video off social media.

“I’m embarrassed that you treat my neighbors like this,” Hernandez said in the video. “Here are children.”

Finally, the officer apologized.

Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin said in a statement that the department is investigating the incident. “My expectation is that all police department employees perform their duties in the community for which we were hired with dignity and respect,” he said.

Police in other cities have been recorded playing copyrighted music to prevent videos of them from making it onto YouTube and other social media sites, which can remove content containing unauthorized material. In June, a sheriff’s deputy in Oakland, California, was playing Taylor Swift’s 2014 single “Blank Space” when activists filmed it to prevent it from being uploaded to YouTube. Instead, the clip stayed online and went viral.

An officer played a Taylor Swift song to keep his recording off YouTube. Instead, it went viral.

As of Tuesday, the Santa Ana video was still being posted to YouTube, where it had more than 45,000 views.

Hernandez told the Post he plans to introduce a ban on the practice during an upcoming city council meeting. He asked why other police officers at the scene didn’t stop the music.

“If you work for the public and there are numerous people recording you and telling you to please turn it off, why wouldn’t anyone in their right mind stop it?” he said.

The video was uploaded to the Santa Ana Audits YouTube channel, which appears to be filming interactions with police to ensure people’s constitutional rights are respected. The man who shot the April 4 video does not identify himself and did not immediately respond to a request for comment through his channel. He began filming cops from afar as they appeared to search a car parked in a driveway, the video shows.

Then Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend In Me started playing and the cameraman walked across the street and confronted the officers.

“You guys get paid to listen to music?” he asked.

Hernandez heard the “Toy Story” music from his house around the corner and went to see what was going on, he told the Post. The councilor said he was already nervous because he thought police were dealing with a person experiencing a mental health crisis. Hernandez noted that in September, Anaheim police fatally shot his cousin Brandon Lopez, who was unarmed and in crisis.

Approaching the scene, Hernandez saw children standing outside and recording neighbors with their cell phones. Hernandez confronted the officer and asked why he was playing the loud Disney music that appeared to be coming out of the police cruiser’s PA system, Hernandez told The Post.

The officer told Hernandez that the video said the man filming the video was interfering with their investigation.

“Why are you playing Disney music?” Hernández asked.

After the officer cited copyright infringement, Hernandez said he believed the police were “trolling” the man who filmed the video.

“Do you live here?” asked Hernandez.

“No, I haven’t, sir,” the officer replied.

“Well, maybe you should treat us with respect,” Hernandez said, adding that there are kids who need to rest before school and adults who need to sleep before work.

The city council then told the official that playing the Disney music was “childish.”

“I apologize,” the officer replied.

Hernandez told The Post that local residents later said they were scared and confused by the officers’ behavior.

“I find that very disrespectful,” one resident told KTLA. “We have to get up pretty early.”

Hernandez said he found it ironic that in this case, the police played music from the Disney films “Encanto” and “Coco” in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.

“These were films that were used to bridge the Latino community,” he said, “and the police are using them to silence them.


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