What Happened to 800 Pounds of Marijuana Seized by Rohnert Park Police?

Allegations of Humboldt County cannabis being illegally seized by Rohnert Park Police Officers which were first reported here have been further investigated by KQED News. Today, KQED released the second in a series of stories that digs further into what happened and are sharing the results with our readers. The writer, Sukey Lewis, is the recipient of the National 2018 Edward R. Murrow Award :

police vehicle pulling a trailer full of marijuana cartoon

[Illustration by Mark Fiore/KQED]

By Sukey Lewis KQED
Documentation for the destruction of about 800 pounds of marijuana seized by Rohnert Park public safety officers in recent years is missing from court files, KQED has found, despite the officers writing in police reports that the court ordered the evidence destroyed.Rohnert Park has released 40 police reports involving traffic stops by former police Sgt. Jacy Tatum and his partners Matthew Snodgrass and Joseph Huffaker in response to a public records request. KQED requested the reports after nine drivers came forward with accounts of questionable stops and seizures along Highway 101 involving Rohnert Park police officers. The city plans to release more incident reports on a rolling basis.Jacy Tatum no longer works for the city of Rohnert Park, Assistant City Manager Don Schwartz said on June 22. Huffaker still works for the city.The incident reports show that Tatum and his partners were responsible for seizing hundreds of pounds of marijuana during the traffic stops.

Screengrab of Jacy Tatum receiving officer of the year award in 2015.

Screengrab of Jacy Tatum receiving officer of the year award in 2015.

The city awarded Tatum for this work in 2015. Police and court records indicate he was given a wide latitude to conduct drug and cash seizures with little oversight.

For example, on Halloween in 2016, Tatum and Huffaker made a standard stop, pulling over a man from Woodland Hills for not having his headlights on in the rain. Huffaker wrote in the report that he smelled marijuana and then searched the vehicle.

“Inside the trunk were four large black garbage bags. Each bag was filled with one pound bags of processed marijuana. There was also approximately 17 lbs of processed marijuana in one pound bags loose in the trunk,” Huffaker wrote in the report. Tatum and Huffaker seized a total of 100 pounds of marijuana in that stop.

A 10-pound sample was booked into evidence, Huffaker wrote, and he drafted a destruction order for the remaining 90 pounds.Destruction Order

Destruction orders are supposed to be filed with Sonoma County Superior Court, according to Rohnert Park Property Unit Supervisor Christine Giordano. State law requires that law enforcement file an affidavit with the court within 30 days of destruction.

But a review of all destruction orders filed with the court from 2014 to 2018 found no destruction orders or affidavits that match the amount, the case number or the driver in the 2016 Halloween traffic stop.

Destruction orders were missing in at least six other cases.

Schwartz, the assistant city manager, wouldn’t clarify the destruction procedures of the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety or explain what happened to the approximately 800 pounds of seized cannabis that was purportedly destroyed but not documented.

Schwartz said he couldn’t comment on the missing destruction orders because they could relate to an ongoing internal investigation into Tatum and Huffaker, which the city launched around April of this year.

Justin Buffington, an attorney who represents Tatum and Huffaker, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

Attorney Joe Russoniello, who used to be an FBI agent and U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California

Attorney Joe Russoniello, who used to be an FBI agent and U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California [Photo provided by Sukey Lewis of KQED]

Attorney Joe Russoniello, who used to be an FBI agent and U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, said it is the responsibility of the police department’s hierarchy to make sure that there is legitimate oversight.“There is a code of silence, of course, which is an impediment to this kind of responsibility and responsiveness,” Russoniello said. “And of course the regular troops on the ground are only as good as their leaders are.”Tatum has a history of tension with Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Chief Brian Masterson, court records show. He successfully fought attempted discipline in 2009 for failing to register an assault rifle with the state Department of Justice.Tatum then sued the chief alleging racial discrimination in 2012. Tatum is African-American.The lawsuit alleged Tatum was unfairly passed over to become a training officer. It cites responses from supervisors who questioned his judgment and “willingness to set the best example” after Tatum sent an email to the entire Department of Public Safety and City Council with some thoughts on police tactics.“Use every tool you have, we don’t play fair….We play to win!!” the email says in part. “When I became a police officer I promised to be honest and protect not only the public, who hates us most of the time until they need us, but to protect the other officers out there protecting society.”Tatum was promoted to sergeant in 2015.

In some cases, Rohnert Park Public Safety officers did file destruction orders with the court. But those, too, raise questions about internal oversight of Tatum and the department’s drug interdiction work.

The department gave Tatum the responsibility for seizing and destroying large amounts of marijuana. In 2016 and 2017, about 720 pounds of marijuana was released to Tatum for disposal, according to destruction orders filed with the court.

Tatum and Huffaker are currently under investigation by Rohnert Park for their involvement in a suspicious marijuana seizure on Dec. 5, 2017. But the city had notice of at least one other questionable marijuana seizure by the two a year earlier.

The officers seized 47 pounds of medical cannabis from Huedell Freeman during a traffic stop on Dec. 29, 2016.

Freeman’s lawyer, Hannah Nelson, followed up with the department a few days later by phone and email asking that the cannabis, worth a year of income to Freeman, be returned to him as soon as possible.

“Officer Huffaker informed me [in a phone call] that he had all but 10 pounds of the medicine destroyed,” Nelson wrote in a follow-up email to the department on Jan. 5, 2017. “He also informed me that I would have to wait to receive discovery to obtain the details of his reasoning or justification. He additionally stated that I would have to subpoena the destruction order and department policies concerning confiscation and destruction of medical cannabis when I asked for both.”

Destruction of Freeman’s cannabis was also counter to Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety policy:

The Property Unit Supervisor should ensure that marijuana, drug paraphernalia or other related property seized from a person engaged or assisting in the use of medical marijuana is not destroyed pending any charges and without a court order.

Upon the prosecutor’s decision to forgo prosecution, or the dismissal of charges or an acquittal, the Property Unit Supervisor should, as soon as practicable, return to the person from whom it was seized any usable medical marijuana, plants, drug paraphernalia or other related property.

That protocol was not followed in Freeman’s case. His marijuana was not returned. The court has no record of a destruction order. No charges were ever filed.*

Freeman filed a claim with the city last year for the value of his seized property, but his claim was denied. Now, more than a year and a half after the traffic stop, Nelson said she still doesn’t know if Freeman’s cannabis was actually destroyed or not.

This story was reported in collaboration with the North Coast Journal and independent reporter Kym Kemp.

*Correction: KQED learned after publication that Rohnert Park police requested prosecutors file charges against Huedell Freeman. This post has been edited to reflect the new information.

Earlier Chapters:

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108 comments

  • Big bulgarian testicles

    This only mentions weed being taken.
    The cash they have seized from buyers hasn’t even gotten mentioned yet.
    Understandable that a buyer isnt just going to come forward to complain about stolen funds that were intended to commit conspiracies with but it has happened and let that sink in a minute.
    This is why a lot of these punks became law enforcement officers in the first place. To be first on scene to find that cash and whatever else is worth lots of money.
    Sickening that we are supposed to trust these people

    • These guys would definitely fail the track and trace program
      This happens in police departments all over the north coast, hopefully more get caught.
      They should seize all his stuff and make him prove where he bought it like they do to cannabis cultivators

  • I’m gonna go with, “not destroyed.”

  • Now if they can sting the cops in Humboldt who rip off money they seize. Every attorney knows this happens. Some day the cops are going to be stung and will be sitting in prison. It might be tomorrow. Or next week. But soon.

    • You should get a big pack of marked bills, roll into a Redway bar along publically where you can get a big load of weed because you got a big wad of cash, then just wait for the cops to confiscate your money

    • Not soon enough for my liking!!! There is NOTHING worse than a crooked cop!!!! They give all of the police a bad name!!!!

      • I hate dirty cops

        I hope you scumbags are reading this Child molesters and dirty cops sit on the same level in society, they are the definition of absolute scum ive been robbed by the Humboldt sheriffs/ task force these guys are dirt bags maybe not all but it definitely took more then one or two of them to do what they did to me and my brother, I hope people’s eyes are opened by this because it’s real it’s really happening all over the country, that dirtbag thief is rite they don’t play fare scum in a uniform. Btw never have needed you POS and never will. I can do a better job of handling any problems then a scumbag like that.

    • Silver nitrate

  • They did what any other dope growers would do. Turn it into unspoken cash….

  • Well they should find some storage lockers in them there police names yea doggie I bet they might find something llolol

  • In other words highway bandits. Is this Mexico we’re talking about?

  • thick blue line of criminal corruption

    do all of these cops drive corvettes paid for with rubber banded cash?

  • Alt Right For Life

    I’d like to see some zeros added to the back of those numbers, 800 pounds isn’t nearly enough, 80,000 is a much better number.

    Get to work Law Enforcement, you’re way, way behind.

  • fuckwalterwhite.com

    I would be cool with the cops having some incentive,if Humboldt wasnt falling apart.

  • In my 1911 I trust

    This is exactly the reason why we can’t have DFW running around the hills like cowboys with zero accountability. They are probably doing the exact same thing, just on a bigger scale because they are hitting actual farms. Probably cashing in on long standing “accounts”. Hey Alt Right how does it help anything if the police turn around and sell it themselves? That doesn’t get any weed off the street now, does it?

    • You’ve nailed it, until the sentence before last.
      Until people realize that tyrants who obey tyranny, instead of the constitution, hold hands on both sides of every issue to force a preplanned outcome, none of these issues will ever be solved in a way that secures the rights of the people.

    • Alt Right For Life

      The police don’t sell drugs, they arrest drug dealers, drug growers, and drug addicts.

      People aren’t supposed to be growing marijuana in the first place, so it’s up to law enforcement to jail hippies.

      That is how the world works.

    • Good explanation.now one master control.a supreme Lider.

  • Corrupt cops, NO SURPRISE!!

  • Great job Kym. This story wouldn’t have seen the light of day without you.

  • Obviously he stole weed from more honest people than him, and sold it to people he knew.

    Audit him. Audit. Find his buyer. Audit him next. Then jail. If accountability means anything.

    Tatum, I hope an example will be made of you.

  • Shame on u. Playing the race card where there probably wasn’t and tainting the movement for your own callous motivations! You make me sick!

  • This whole thing is a mirror image of training day with Denzel washington. Or like Richard Gere in Internal Affairs bad cops.

    • King Kong ain't got shit on me!

      Only exception is that it is real and they are ALL in on the corruption or at least know about the corruption. That is why they will never be prosecuted by their fellow gangsters.

    • Or back even further to Serpico, that character also had LARGE issues with his fellow officers for being TOO HONEST!!!!

  • Officer of the Year! I have noticed that the vast majority of cops in the news for doing the dirty are “decorated” officers. Makes me wonder what the requirements are for upward mobility within the department. I think the FBI should spend some time up their asses. I wonder, do any of Humboldt’s police departments have IA divisions? And if so, what have they been doing? Selling weed in Utah?

  • This won’t be any problem in the future as only licensed distributors can transport cannabis legally and they probably pay with a check. Anything else is criminal and fair game.

    • Fair game?

      So you think it’s ok for police to steal as long as the stolen items are contraband?

      • No but then no one cared when others objected to creating contraband in the first place. In fact it is still apparently encouraged. It just reality and natural that a corrupt people have corrupt cops and it’s hard to get all morally outraged over watching the corrupt forces spit at each other.

      • I don’t care if criminals steal from each other. Or kill each other.

    • License required to hunt?

  • The headline of 800 missing pounds still remains a mystery as to where it went. As another poster above said, cash was also likely taken, too.

    If this unravels further as I expect, I hope the financial records of Mr. Tatum and Mr. Huffaker are also seized and audited for any glaring irregularities. Now that would truly be a nail in a corrupt cop’s coffin of termination.

  • How the heck can Rodent Park cops be patrolling in southern Mendocino County without someone in their chain of command knowing about it?

    • James Marmon MSW

      Mendocino County Under-Sheriff Randy Johnson told Zeke Flatten that his office does not investigate other law enforcement agencies. Sheriff Allman basically admitted to the Anderson Valley Advertiser that as long as his deputies were not involved that he could care less about what other cops were doing in Mendocino County.

      James Marmon MSW
      Former Social Worker V
      Mendocino Health and Human Service’s Agency

  • I’ve never understood why government would destroy a product that could help people that medically need it, but can’t afford it. Give it to a nonprofit organization that could clean, process package and distribute across the US. And to all those who grew it I give a thumbs up for all your hard work. Too bad it’s not in a legal way.

  • It’s not Smokey and the bandits…
    It’s…Smokey IS the bandit!

    ~Organized crime…conspiracy?… of course, starting with these rogue cops (jackboot thugs) all the way up the penal system.

    What else can be expected when the police are policing themselves…?
    Transparency…what transparency…?

    Seems to me like they make every effort to hide (cover up) their misdeeds,
    …the thin blue line ain’t so thin.

  • And, they must have some inside information to know which vehicles to pull over. It can’t just be random luck.

  • Police = mafia . Welcome to the 3rd world folks.

  • It was all illegal under federal law. So the people transporting it were federal criminals. Sorry you get so mad hearing that but that is the reality. Hide your contraband and stop acting so self-righteously smug. I think it’s funny what these cops did. This is what some cops have always done and always will. No it’s not right but then breaking federal law is not either! Ha ha Ha!!

    • While clearly stealing is a moral failing, marijuana growing or transporting is not.

      • “Morality” is not a defined term and means different things in different communities. Outside of this strange Humboldt bubble I think that many if not most people consider breaking a federal law to be “immoral”. To drive around breaking federal law while acting like you are not doing anything illegal is…well, unsmart at best. I know we disagree on this. I have seen lots of things in my time in the underground economy but the recent years of amateur “professionals” is providing me and my friends a hearty laugh!

        • These are not federal officers. They should be enforcing state law.

          That said there are very few societies where stealing is acceptable. Using, selling, and transporting marijuana was federally legal less than 100 years ago.

          Laughing at law enforcement that feels free to steal and abuse people’s rights strikes me as a recipe for a society to destroy itself.

        • This story is not about enforcing federal laws. Its about local crooks with badges committing highway robbery. It is legal in California, hence the Feds are leaving the door wide open for crooked cops to pretend that they are enforcing federal weed laws.

          Truth is most police are wicked pissed to their cores with legalization. Why? Because for years they convinced themselves that weed was bad, the devil, right up there with heroin, crack, and beating your kids – because it was illegal and it was their job to combat things that are illegal.

          So when lawmakers change the rules because their constituents demand it, pooooof, the law goes into the shitter. And officer lawdog’s ability to couple the law with what is right and wrong in their brain goes into the shitter also.

          Funny how the “immorality” aspect of weed seems to disappear once the taxman gets into the game. The states should decide what is best – as they have done in DC, California, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado. Only a matter of time before all 50 states tell DC to get the fuck away from our weed money.

          • I have a couple murky questions, and I am not defending or condoning anyone!

            1. Was marijuana legal in California when these stops occurred?

            2. After marijuana was legalized in California, can you grow it in one county and then transport to a different county without notifying anyone you are doing so?

            3. What are the odds? Is there so much marijuana being transported from Humboldt using 101 south thru Mendocino/Sonoma county, that the percentage of pulling over someone, anyone, and they will have multiple pounds of processed marijuana in the car or truck?

            There is something about this story that doesn’t add up. And I’m not talking about the corruption of law enforcement, that happens everyday and twice on Sunday. I talking about how did these cops know the weed was in those cars? Or do they just pull everyone over?

          • And jealousy of people making money without working.

    • Yes.fed trumps state in court.

    • I hate dirty cops

      [edit]it’s not illegal federally to grow or transport weed as long as your within state guild lines [edit] it’s called the rohrabacher-farr amendment look it up before you go justifying ripping off the people that pay your pay checks [edit].

  • This has been going on for YEARS; and reported for YEARS; and blown off for YEARS. I know, because I’ve tried to blow the whistle on such goings on in Mendocino…also for YEARS.
    In the end, the blue wall of silence will prevail. Being on the right side of the law requires being on the right side of the badge: directly behind it.
    I applaud the effort, but I have no faith that justice will ever come down on these cops…any of them. Like many of us, they learned a long time ago how to send the kids to college on prohibition money.

  • Nine drivers, so far. . 800 pounds plus probably some cash, some coke, some god knows what. This is a million bucks easy. A million bucks that Brendon Tatum and his cronies made selling it back onto the street, or to a gullible dispensary. Has mr Tatums property been thoroughly searched? No mention in the article. His storage unit? His friends homes. His banking records? The blue wall seems to still be tall and wide.

  • I like stars too!

    The more I read about his, the more I realize that the police are probably just as corrupt and incompetent as the folks you commonly meet working in Healthcare Administration!

    I still want to see what is proven in court.

    There is no room in the jails for crooked cops, and they wouldn’t last long there anyway. These guys seem to bounce from job to job without much due dilligence, or effective supervision.

    The two Eureka Cops the Native American fellow made the video of, the other day, gave me pause, and my honest feeling is that the cops filmed are just cowboys who are not effectively supervised, not serving the public interest, and should be fired.

    If it can be proven that cops stole or misappropriated anything at all, they should be prosecuted, terminated from their positions, and jailed if appropriate.

  • Bait them,for $,with $.

  • Follow the cash and cash bank account deposits, then add up all his toys and see how much they add up too, guaranteed this thief cop thinks he is outside the scope of the law, lock this thief up with criminals he lied and busted and stole from…….
    Been happening for years in Sonoma, Mendo and Humboldt, investigate, Fbi, homeland security,

  • Are Rohnert Park Police the only agency investigating these accusations and missing evidence. Are they capable of an unbiased and thorough investigation. Obviously, they were not capable of monitoring their Officers actions for the last couple of years. A bit scarey and unbelievable to me as a resident of Rohnert Park

  • Mendocino Mamma

    After working with local gooberment and stupidvisors for years it’s all about the cliques!!! If you question a clique or see gross mismanagement you are the bad guy if you report the problem. The higher ups never seem to care unless one of 2 things. Their income/position is at risk or they get publicly called out. Which to the first they just axe the staff that complained. In the second they pretend to fix it until it is no longer a hot topic and is swept under the rug again to then continue on their merry way. No accountability, no checks and or balances, no follow up. Just a flipping mess.

  • The R P police are the most corrupt in Northern California, they have manipulated city elections and have controlled R P for 20 years. A former head of their union was making over $100,000 a year! Any person of color knows they are a racist organization. No one in the city dared challenge them so they have operated with impunity. The former Sonoma District Attorney was a lap dog for them. The candidates they supported mysteriously received large sums of money from people outside the state. R P should disband their police/fire department and contract for services from surrounding agencies. It is the only way you sure going to rid the city of this endemic corruption

  • Kym!

    The Press Democrat cited you regarding the Tatum story, Great Job!

    http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8422963-181/ex-rohnert-park-sergeant-under-investigation?artslide=3

    “Tatum’s boss will not answer questions about him, even in the face of new revelations and increasing public criticism of the city’s public safety department. The city’s internal investigation of Tatum was first reported in April by Kym Kemp, author of Humboldt County’s Redheaded Blackbelt news blog and also last month by KQED, the Bay Area’s NPR affiliate.”

  • Same thing has been happening in the Mendocino County Task Force and Sheriff Department for decades. 2 dead Sheriff committed “suicide” with higher up officers in the same building is suspicious, lots to hide up in Covelo, wife swapping, pay off money for ignoring cartel grows….. Fred and Barney Rubble…..

  • The face and eyes of corruption.

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