The latest incident comes from Los Angeles, where an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) accidentally filmed himself placing cocaine in a suspect’s wallet, according to a new report by CBS Los Angeles.
The body camera video shows police picking up Ronald Shields, who was charged with felony hit-and-run, having a gun in the trunk of his car, and cocaine possession in April. The police report claimed cops had found the cocaine in Shields’s left pocket.
The footage tells a different story. LAPD officer Gaxiola, as CBS Los Angeles identified him, picks up Shields’s wallet from the street and shows it to another officer who then points to Shields. Gaxiola then puts the wallet back down, picks up a small bag of white powder from the street (which later tested positive for cocaine), picks up the wallet, and puts the bag in the wallet.
The audio turns on, signaling that the officer had manually activated his camera to record. Then, the officer shows himself supposedly finding the wallet and the drugs inside of it, and repeatedly telling other officers about it. “Just to let you know, sir, inside his wallet, he has a little bag of narco,” Gaxiola said.
So what happened? The simple explanation is that the officer apparently did not know that when he switches on his body camera, it automatically records and saves the past 30 seconds, although without audio.
Shields’s lawyer claims that the officers outright planted the drugs to frame his client.
It’s possible, though, that the cops tried to reenact the act of finding the cocaine for the cameras. But that is still very deceptive — and when so clearly caught on video, it makes it hard to trust the police officers with just about everything else they’re doing. It makes a potentially credible case lose all credibility.
The LAPD is investigating the incident. “The LAPD takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and, as in all cases, will conduct a thorough investigation,” it said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Previously, Baltimore police officers were caught doing this — twice. That led the local prosecutor to drop dozens of cases involving the officers.
According to CBS Los Angeles, this is the first time that the media has seen LAPD body camera footage since the force launched its program two years ago. It’s one hell of a debut.