A veteran Los Angeles police officer is under investigation after his body-worn camera captured him allegedly fondling a dead woman’s breasts.
The officer, who is assigned to downtown’s Central Division, was placed on leave once supervisors reviewed the footage during a random inspection, LAPD officials said.
The incident occurred when the officer and his partner responded to a call about a possible dead woman in a residential unit, sources said. Once the two officers determined the woman was dead, one officer returned to the patrol car to retrieve something. During that time, the accused officer turned off his body-worn camera and allegedly fondled the woman’s breasts, LAPD officials said.
Although the officer deactivated the camera, a two-minute buffer on the device captured the incident. The department is also investigating the officer’s work history.
“We immediately launched an administrative investigation once we learned about the incident,” chief spokesman Josh Rubenstein said, “and we assigned the officer to home.” He declined to comment further.
Assistant Chief Robert Arcos called the recording “very disturbing.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file cops, called the allegations troubling.
“If this allegation is true, then the behavior exhibited by this officer is not only wrong, but extremely disturbing, and does not align with the values we, as police officers, hold dear, and these values include respect and reverence for the deceased,” the board of directors said in a statement. “This behavior has no place in law enforcement.”
Currently, when an LAPD officer turns his or her camera on, it automatically begins saving video and audio starting two minutes prior to the activation. It’s unclear for how long the officer fondled the dead woman or what triggered him to later activate the camera.
Supervisors discovered the act during a random inspection of video recordings.
Last month, The Times reported that the LAPD would start reviewing random recordings to make sure officers are following guidelines when dealing with the public.
Chief Michel Moore reached an agreement last month with the union to inspect body-worn camera recordings that don’t involve arrests or the use of force.
The inspections will allow supervisors to determine whether some officers need additional training or counseling to prevent instances of biased policing, Moore told the Board of Police Commissioners. Supervisors would check to make sure that officers aren’t rude and that they explain their actions when stopping people, he said.
Even prior to the agreement, police leaders could review recordings and discipline officers for misconduct discovered on video. It is standard for police bosses to review recordings from arrests, when force is used or in cases where the public files complaints against officers.
The LAPD began field testing body-worn cameras in 2014 and eventually deployed more than 7,000. The department collects about 14,000 recordings each day and has accumulated recordings totaling more than 2.1 million hours.