Long Beach Marijuana Dispensary Guard Alleges Unlawful Arrest

The allegations are the latest to come from Long Beach pot-shop employees against local police

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Dorian Brooks, a volunteer employee at a Long Beach marijuana dispensary, and his attorney filed an excessive force claim against the city of Long Beach, alleging police used excessive force when they raided the THC Downtown Collective in June. The bust was caught on surveillance cameras. Michelle Valles reports from Long Beach for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on July 5, 2012.

    Allegations by a marijuana dispensary security guard claiming Thursday that he was unlawfully arrested by Long Beach police come on the heels of another dispensary employee filing a $1 million claim of excessive force against Long Beach officers involved in a pot-shop raid on June 19.

    Michael Tart, a licensed security guard for Nature Cann Collective in Long Beach, was released from jail Thursday shortly before 4 a.m. and was back at work that afternoon.

    Surveillance video of the dispensary shows Tart being whisked away from his post by Long Beach police on July 3.

    "They get away with too much," Tart said.

    Tart said police did not read him his rights or present a warrant for his arrest. Rather, they told him he was being arrested for failing to appear in court for his misdemeanors, which include improper insignia on his uniform and smoking a cigarette too close to a building.

    Sheriff’s inmate records show Tart was booked into custody on misdemeanor charges on May 15 and July 3.

    "In my personal opinion, they do not like the fact we’re here; they don’t want us here," Tart said.

    Tart is planning to file a claim of unlawful arrest against the city.

    Tart’s attorney, Michael Pappas, also represents Dorian Brooks, a volunteer employee at THC Downtown collective who claims Long Beach officers injured him, violated his rights and violated the state’s disables person’s act during a June raid.

    "The city won't issue any permits for medical cannabis collectives," Pappas said. "It has banned them outright in violation of state law," Pappas said.

    Pappas claims to have received similarly confrontational treatment from Long Beach police.

    The city "refused to issue me a business license and then its officers came in and charge me with misdemeanors to get me out of the city," Pappas said.

    Long Beach police officials and city councilmembers declined to comment on any of those incidents.

    On Thursday, Brooks’ lawyers filed a claim seeking $1 million in damages from the city of Long Beach alleging that the police raid on the shop was illegal and that officers involved used excessive force.

    "In terms of the excessive force claim, we will investigate that aspect of it," Long Beach City Attorney Robert E. Shannon told NBC4.

    Shannon said that the Long Beach Police Department is also mulling whether to open a criminal investigation into the activities of the medical marijuana dispensary and police are considering an internal investigation into the officers’ conduct during the raid.

    The bust was caught on surveillance cameras which show an officer apparently stepping on Dorian’s back and neck before handcuffing him. Two officers, one of whom appears to be undercover, are seen in the video smashing the cameras.

    Video of the raid -- which ended in the arrests of five men on suspicion of operating a marijuana dispensary without a license -- was posted by YouTube user "Long Beach Raids" on July 1. Officials said they learned about the video on July 3.

    An advocate for medical marijuana dispensary owners and workers criticized the officers’ conduct.

    "That behavior is so blatant it cannot be the first time," said Steven Downing, a retired Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief and current board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition."It was arrogant. It was unnecessary and it was brutal."

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