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Police Officers under investigation after blaring Disney music in local neighborhood

Police in California are under investigation after a video was released that documents an officer’s use of copyrighted music in an extremely unconventional approach to a citizen during an exchange between the two.

Everything was peaceful and quiet in a Santa Ana, California neighborhood on the evening of April 4. But things drastically changed around 11:00 p.m. when restful residents in the Santa Ana neighborhood on the 1600 block of West Civic Center Drive awoke to the sounds of a police helicopter, police cruisers, and the blaring sounds of Randy Newman’s voice singing the theme song from Disney/PIXAR’s Toy Story, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

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Credit: PIXAR Animation Studios

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Such a police presence in the Santa Ana neighborhood was unsettling enough, but residents were shocked when they discovered that the loud Disney music wasn’t the work of an obnoxious neighbor, but rather the odd approach of Santa Ana police officers in a police car.

And Woody and Buzz weren’t the only ones with show tunes playing from the officers‘ vehicle. The police officers’ repertoire also featured “Un Poco Loco” from Disney/PIXAR’s Coco, “Reflection” from Disney’s Mulan, and Encanto‘s “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”

bruno disney's encanto

Credit: Disney

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Alma Guzman was visiting her mother who lives in the neighborhood when she awoke to the noise.

“The police came; I guess there was a stolen vehicle,” she told news station KTLA. “Then the Disney music started playing. I didn’t know why.”

The video in question was reportedly made by a YouTuber who was conducting a police audit. Police auditing is a legal activity in which interactions between law enforcement officers‘ interactions with residents or alleged criminals are recorded. Though the practice is legal, it can often be antagonistic toward police officers, making the activity unpopular among officers.

In the recording, a man who identified himself as a city council member can be seen chastising a police officer. Neighbors in the area identified the man as Santa Ana Councilmember Jonathan Hernandez.

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Santa Ana Councilman Jonathan Hernandez/Credit: NewSantaAna

“Why are you playing this? Disrespectful,” Hernandez can be heard saying in the video. Hernandez goes on to tell the police officer to “have some respect for [the] community.”

Donna Sanchez, who lives in the Santa Ana neighborhood said she appreciates what the council member was doing.

“I love Johnathan Hernandez sticking up for us,” Sanchez said. “I think it’s very disrespectful. We have to wake up pretty early.” Sanchez further said there was no harm in Hernandez recording the video.

jonathan hernandez santa ana

Credit: Facebook/Jonathan Hernandez

The police officer told Mr. Hernandez and others at the time that he was playing the loud Disney music so that when Hernandez posted his video on YouTube, the social media platform would strike it based on the fact that copyrighted music was in the video, meaning YouTube would either mute the audio or take down the video altogether.

Whether there’s a lack of Toy Story fans in the Santa Ana neighborhood or a lack of sleep among the residents, the officer’s actions didn’t sit well with everyone, and the Santa Ana Police Department is now investigating the situation. The department will decide if the officers involved should be disciplined.

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Santa Ana Police Chief Valentin/Credit: BehindtheBadge

Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin released a statement on behalf of the department, saying in part:

“The Santa Ana police department is aware of a video that has surfaced involving one of our officers. We are committed to serving our community and we understand the concerns as it relates to the video. The Santa Ana police department takes seriously all complaints regarding the service provided by the department and the conduct of its employees. Our department is committed to conducting complete, thorough, and objective investigations. My expectation is that all police department employees perform their duties with dignity and respect in the community we are hired to serve.”

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Credit: City of Santa Ana

Guzman, who was visiting her mother, called the actions of the officers “unacceptable,” saying she believes residents have the right to record the police.

“We should be able to record them without a problem,” Guzman said. She explained that she thought the officers‘ use of copyrighted music was an inappropriate response to the recording.

City council member Johnathan Hernandez says he plans to introduce a statute that would ban police from playing loud copyrighted music during police audits during a future city council meeting, saying he doesn’t understand why other Santa Ana police officers at the scene didn’t do something about the loud music.

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

Hernandez said he thought it was very ironic that police officers chose to play songs from Disney and PIXAR films that featured storylines about Latino families, such as Encanto and Coco, especially since the Santa Ana neighborhood in which the scenario took place is a predominantly Latino one.

encanto disney madrigal family

Credit: Walt Disney Animation

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

The officer has since apologized, and the investigation is ongoing at this time.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!