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Police under review for blasting Disney songs in alleged attempt to keep videos off social media

YouTube and other social media sites can remove content with unauthorized copyrighted materials

4 min

The night’s soundtrack started with “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story,” then moved to a more recent favorite, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from “Encanto,” before the sentimental “Reflection” from “Mulan.”

It was around 11 p.m. on April 4 on a residential street in Santa Ana, Calif. — and the Disney songs blared from a police cruiser, according to a YouTube video and news reports. Police had been investigating a stolen vehicle, an officer explains in the video. But after “Un Poco Loco” from Disney’s 2017 movie “Coco” started blasting through the neighborhood, residents began asking questions.

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

Seconds after the music appears to abruptly turn off, a 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 toward the man filming the video. Hernandez took that to mean the officer was trying to keep the video off social media.

“I’m embarrassed that this is how you’re treating my neighbors,” Hernandez said in the video. “There’s children here.”

Eventually, the officer apologized.

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

Police in other cities have been recorded playing copyrighted music in an effort to prevent videos of them from hitting YouTube and other social media sites, which can remove content containing unauthorized materials. In June, a sheriff’s deputy in Oakland, Calif., played Taylor Swift’s 2014 single “Blank Space” as activists filmed him in an attempt to keep it from being uploaded to YouTube. Instead, the clip remained 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 video from Santa Ana was still 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 session. He questioned why other police officers at the scene did not stop the 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.

The video was uploaded to the Santa Ana Audits YouTube channel, which appears to film police interactions to ensure people’s constitutional rights are respected. The man shooting the April 4 video does not identify himself and did not immediately respond to a request for comment through his channel. He began filming police officers from a distance 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” began to play, 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 happening, he told The Post. The councilman said he was already on edge, thinking that police were dealing with a person undergoing a mental health crisis. In September, Hernandez noted, Anaheim police fatally shot his cousin, Brandon Lopez, who was unarmed and in crisis.

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

The officer told Hernandez that the man filming the video was interfering with their investigation, according to the video.

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

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

“Do you live here?” Hernandez asked.

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

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

The councilman then told the officer that playing the Disney music was “childish.”

“I apologize,” the officer replied.

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

“I think it’s very disrespectful,” one resident told KTLA. “We have to wake up pretty early.”

Hernandez said he found it ironic that police in this instance played music from the Disney movies “Encanto” and “Coco” in a predominantly Latino neighborhood.

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