The Santa Ana police department has been under fire in the last days, especially after the city’s bi-monthly council meeting was called to a halt last week by Santa Ana Mayor, Miguel Pulido. An attendee was wearing a hat that read “Fuck the police,” which the Mayor found offensive. Several officers then entered the council chambers, eventually forcing the people to leave.
Some community members saw the debate as a matter over “freedom of speech,” but for many Santa Ana residents, it has been a matter of defending and resisting against continued abuse by the police.
Residents of a Santa Ana apartment complex lived another example of intimidation by officials after experiencing first-hand their tactics of harassment late Tuesday night.
At approximately 11 P.M. on Tuesday, residents of a Santa Ana apartment complex heard shouting in their parking lot area. As captured on footage, officers were questioning two men who were parked in the apartment complex’s private lot.
Several demands were shouted at one of the men who seemed to only respond to officers in Spanish. A total of six Santa Ana Police patrol vehicles then rushed the complex, blocking off the entryway for other residents. Multiple residents then stepped outside to observe the caravan of patrol vehicles at the lot.
According to witnesses, one of the eight officers on site, officer E. Rivas, approached a witness who was filming the event with his mobile phone and mockingly stated, “Make sure you explain on the video that they’re drinking in public and that is in violation of the law”. According to the witness, this same officer refused multiple times to state the reason for the arrest or give out his badge number when asked to identify himself.
The wife of one of the men explained that as soon as people began to ask questions, the officers changed their tone to aggressive in attempts to intimidate the crowd, only to calm their approach once residents began filming their actions.
A family member of another man arrested during the event rushed out, concerned about the six patrol vehicles in the parking lot of her residence.
“He even said he was sorry,” she stated, “He told them [the police] that he didn’t even know it was illegal to drink in the private lot. They told me to shut up when I tried to talk to the police and they even sat me on the floor to question me. ”
It’s not the charge that bothers some of the residents that witnessed the event, but the intimidation tactics that the officers used to carry out the arrest and prevent any witnesses from inquiring about the reasons for the unnecessary over-escalation of the situation.
“I literally parked my car and walked over and BAMN they were all there flashing lights in our faces,” shared one resident, “I asked an officer ‘E Rivas’ the reason for the arrest and if it was really necessary to have so many patrol cars, and he ignored me. I was scared they were gonna start shooting us just for asking questions.”
Captured footage even presents one female officer bumping into a witness as she recorded the scene.
“As I was quietly recording, the female officer began to walk towards me, came up to me, and straight up bumped me,” shared the witness, “ I was shocked because these are the people we are supposed trust. These are the people that are here to supposedly ‘protect and serve.’ “
She continued to record the event in hopes that no one else would be harassed like she had been. She also expressed her disappointment with the officers.
“ A grown, adult female officer bumping a young girl for recording; this is why the Santa Ana Police department has such a bad reputation. This is just another example of police officers abusing their power. Shame on them!”
“They also stopped another family member one time,” described another resident that witnessed the event, “They pulled him over and immediately started shouting at him and told him to get out of his car. They wouldn’t let his wife and his children get out - the officer kept shouting and even told him ‘shut up because I can shoot you.’”
“That’s how it is now,” she added, “They can just say anything, like they feared for their life, and just shoot you.”
This fear of being shot at by a police officer is becoming more and more prevalent in low-income communities of color in many parts of the state. The continuous harassment of local residents by their respective police department officers is nothing unfamiliar to Santa Ana residents and neighboring cities. In the last years, residents and community members have focused on building a network of community-based organizations combating social issues such as police brutality, mass incarceration, gang injunctions, deportations, gentrification, criminalization of youth, and disproportionate budget allocations in favor of the police departments.
After last week’s tense standoff during Santa Ana’s city council meeting, more residents are expected to return to the following meeting to express their growing distrust with law enforcement agencies. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 21 at 5:45 P.M, just one day before October 22nd, or “O22”, also recognized as “National Day of Action Against Police Brutality.”