One of the major criticisms against police-worn body cameras is the fact that the vast majority of police departments across the country have absolutely no transparency, and refuse to release footage of contentious arrests to the public.
The Los Angeles Police Department is no different—however, 12 videos from a 2016 arrest were recently handed over to CBS2 by a defense attorney handling the case. This is the first time that footage has been released to the media since the body camera program was implemented in Los Angeles, and if this case is any indication of what the hidden footage looks like, things certainly do smell rotten at the LAPD.
Attorney Steve Levine said he believes that body camera footage from his client’s arrest shows LAPD officers planting drugs. He also noticed several inconsistencies in the video that contradict statements the officers made in their police reports. His client, 52-year-old Ronald Shields was arrested after a car accident for possession of cocaine.
According to Levine, the body cameras can be turned on and off by officers, but the recording actually starts proactively and will pick up the 30 seconds of activity that takes place in front of the camera prior to it being turned on. Levine said that the drugs were planted in this 30-second timeframe when the officers did not know that they were being filmed.
Showing the video to CBS, Levine pointed out that a white square can be seen in the officer’s hand before one of the officers picks up a small bag of drugs off the ground. The video also shows the officer awkwardly moving around the suspect and bending down towards the area that the drugs were found just after fiddling around with the white square in his hand.
“There’s a little white square here in his hand. I believe the video shows the drugs were in his right hand and transfers to his left hand,” Levine said.
Furthermore, the officers testified that the bag of drugs was found in his left pocket, but the video shows it being found on the ground. Then the officers are seen taking the drugs off of the ground and placing them into his wallet, which is an obvious breach of protocol. Next, LAPD Officer Gaxiola is seen in the video carrying the wallet to several different officers telling them “He has a little bag of narco in here.”
The judge reportedly said on Thursday that he does not agree with Levine about the white square that can obviously be seen in the officer’s hand, but it is undeniable that the footage on the body camera contradicts the information that the officers provided in their police report.
CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein chased after the officers in question after they left court on Thursday, and both officers nervously refused to comment.
“He looked dumbstruck to me. Period. He had really no answer,” attorney Steve Levine said of accused LAPD officer Samuel Lee.
The LAPD responded to these revelations in a statement saying that they will be opening an internal investigation into the use and misuse of bodycams by officers on the street.
If you think police officers planting evidence is some anomaly, think again.
After their department gained national shame in August over a video showing an officer planting drugs to frame an innocent man while his fellow cops watched, the Baltimore Police Department showed the world the dark reality that is framing people to make arrests. Only days after the first video was released, the Baltimore Public Defender’s office released a second video that allegedly “appears to depict multiple officers working together to manufacture evidence.”
It was then announced that nearly three dozen people will have their charges dropped after the video of Officer Richard Pinheiro showed him planting drugs while Officers Hovhannes Simonyan and Jamal Brunson stood by and did nothing. Naturally, the BPD claimed nothing unscrupulous was going in in the aforementioned videos.
It is not just Baltimore cops either— the Alabama Justice Project revealed that a ring of corrupt cops in the Dothan Police Department planted drugs and guns on hundreds of young black men for over a decade, in most cases resulting in their imprisonment. Their actions were aided by supervisors and covered up by the district attorney.