Body Cameras

LAPD Officers Recorded Themselves Apparently Planting Cocaine on a Suspect

The department has made it a policy not to release body camera footage. This is why they shouldn't get to decide.


LAPD body camera footage
LAPD footage via CBS

The Los Angeles Police Department's response to demands that its officers' body camera footage be available to the media and the public has been simple and firm: No.

A news report from CBS' local affiliate showing what appears to be LAPD officers planting drug evidence during an arrest may challenge how long the department may be able to maintain that policy.

Since Los Angeles started rolling out body cameras for its officers two years ago (partly funded by a federal grant, so we're all paying for this), the LAPD has been insistent that body camera footage is not a public record and would not be released.

But a CBS reporter got his hands on a dozen body camera videos from the arrest of Ronald Shields, 52, stopped by police and charged with a hit-and-run in North Hollywood. The videos show what appears to be an officer taking a baggie of cocaine, planting it in Shields' wallet, and then acting like he has discovered it on the scene.

The case appears to be very similar to a situation uncovered in Baltimore where an officer inadvertently recorded himself planting drugs on a scene. And it happened for the same reason. The body cameras continually record and buffer what's happening, but without sound, for the previous 30 seconds, even when they're not technically "on." When a police officer actually turns the body camera "on," the camera also saves the previous 30 seconds and they are captured in the footage.

So the officer's own body camera captured him picking a packet of cocaine off the ground at the arrest scene, putting it in Shields' wallet, and then pretending that he discovered the drugs during the search.

Shields' attorney showed the footage in a pre-trial hearing and now the LAPD is investigating what happened. It may well be a situation where the officer was re-enacting "discovering" the drugs for the camera and didn't actually plant drugs on an innocent man. That was the claim out of Baltimore. That's still a terrible, deceptive practice that needs to stop immediately because it jeopardizes everything else about the arrest. You cannot "recreate" the discovery of evidence and expect people to reasonably believe everything else is real.

The discovery in Baltimore that the placement of the evidence in a case had been staged ultimately ended up in dozens of other criminal cases being dropped by prosecutors. So the discovery here in this one LAPD case could end up rippling out even further.

The LAPD may say they take claims of misconduct seriously and Mayor Eric Garcetti can claim that he "expects the highest integrity from everyone who wears badge," but this case highlights exactly why the police should not have the authority to decide for itself whether body camera footage is released to the public.

Watch the footage in the CBS report here.

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  1. If the federal government is going to fund anything related to body cameras it should be a program to secretly install such cameras on police officers around the nation, record everything for one year and then dump it all on the internet at once. I’m sure it would be enlightening.

  2. Wait until they gain sentience and figure out how the cameras work. It could happen!

  3. In Illinois, all police documents are public records. Personal information like SS number, address, etc. can be blacked out. It has been this way for about eight years thanks to our Supreme Court.

    The modern definition of a document is anything recorded in any way.

  4. Once someone has been given a badge then they have the highest integrity. Once someone has been given a badge then their integrity can’t be questioned. They are now angels. They are public servants. The only thing that corrupts is profit. Not power. Power does not corrupt, and government is populated by angels. So this must be false. No one with power would ever do this, because all public servants are motivated by the greater good.

    1. This is possibly the fatal flaw inherent to socialistic institutions. A public employee’s job is not a public asset; it is the employee’s asset, and will be leveraged accordingly.

      Well. I suppose that wouldn’t be necessarily the fatal flaw, but rather the fatality would come from the failure to recognize this and adapt in response.

    2. Oh, they’re profiting too. Sometimes to the tune mid-six-figure pensions.

    3. That is part of the jury selection process in Austin Texas. “If a policeman makes an allegation, do you believe it like The Gospel or settled science?” Every juror that answers “no” sits over on the Group W bench until the bailiff hollers: “All you hippies and naygurs, take a walk!”

  5. the officer’s own body camera captured him picking a packet of cocaine off the ground at the arrest scene

    So what you’re saying is that there is so much cocaine in Hollywood that it’s just lying around in baggies on the ground?

    1. I thought that was weird too. Where that cocaine came from, and whose it was, is kind of key to the whole story. If the suspect dropped it in the first place, then the officer is merely performing a classic, “framing a guilty man.”

      1. The news report I saw pointed out that you can see what looks to be a small square white baggie in one of the officers hands right before he bends down at the approximate spot where it was picked up by another officer.

        1. I have watched the video five times and can’t make heads nor tails of it. Even the alleged planting in the wallet part.

      2. One cop dropped it on the ground. Other said, “that’s not close enough.”

    2. They have a lot of reasonable doubt lying around.

  6. It was so nice of those kind officers to return the man’s cocaine to him.

  7. They need to arrest this man for using illegal currency. Blow is not legal tender.

  8. Who would have ever thought that this “suspect” would get his charges dropped and win a lawsuit against the LAPD.

  9. “The LAPD takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and, as in all cases, will conduct a thorough investigation.”

    Yeah, when you’ve got them on camera and they don’t know it.

  10. Does this speak well of the IQ levels they recruit?

    1. That’s a feature, not a bug, of the Order Follower.

  11. Body cameras are of little use,if cops are not held accountable for illegal actions.

    1. I’d wager the cartel folks have experts able to watch the vid, identify offissa Trou Don Blo and find out where he sleeps. This could be another senseless tragedy in the making, all because of God’s Own Prohibitionist politicians retasking First Responders into First Aggressors, thereby putting them in harm’s way over victimless plant leaf products.

  12. Surely OUR faith-based altruist prohibitionist berserker cops would never stoop to such mendacity–unless it be to please faith-based altruist berserker looter politicians eager to keep another Rodney King from ever voting, driving, testifying or breathing free again.

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