A California lawmaker is alleging that Santa Ana police are playing loud Disney music in their patrol cars during parades in an effort to ensure that any recorded video of their interactions is taken off the internet due to copyright infringement.
Santa Ana Councilman Johnathan Ryan Hernandez told the council on Tuesday that he wants lawmakers to ban the practice after a video went viral showing police officers performing the song on a residential street in the city. Officers were investigating a stolen vehicle during the stop.
Hernandez appears in the video talking to a Santa Ana Police Department officer after another resident asked them to stop playing the song.
According to CNN, Disney songs like “You Have a Friend in Me” from Toy Story and “Bruno” from Encanto can be heard in the background of the video. The footage was uploaded to the Santa Ana Audits YouTube channel, which films interactions with Santa Ana police.
Platforms like YouTube have automated copyright detection software that flags videos with copyrighted content. This prevents video creators from uploading content using media they do not own, regardless of the video’s context, but does not automatically delete or prevent videos from being published. It simply alerts the user that the video contains copyrighted content.
It appears that police are hoping that YouTube’s copyright detection will block the videos, or that Disney will file a claim against the videos for copyright infringement, which would force the video owner to contest the claim or remove the video.
Attempts to remove the videos do not appear to be effective as there are no known cases of police encounter footage being Disney claimed content.
Police departments across the country have been trying to find ways to avoid being filmed by citizens. The efforts began after nationwide protests erupted following the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd’s death – and the deaths of several other black men at the hands of the police – fueled the backlash against law enforcement.
Hernandez told CNN that the individual filming the video repeatedly asked officers to stop playing the song and that a police officer at the scene said he was playing the song in hopes it would not be posted due to copyright infringement.
“My people live here brother, please treat them with respect,” says Hernandez in the video. “There are kids who need to go to school, there are people who are working, and you chose to use our taxpayer money to disrespect the man with your music. This is childish.”
The officer finally says he recognizes Hernandez as councilor and apologizes.
“This is my district. You are not going to behave like that in front of my neighbors,” says Hernandez, telling the police officer to apologize to the person who recorded the video. “Now get back in your car and do your job right.”
The officer apologized again.
During the board meeting, Hernandez called the practice “unethical” and that they “cannot tolerate”.
“There’s no reason to behave that way with the public, especially if you’re a police officer with a badge and a gun,” he said.
The Independent contacted the police department for comment.