Since the Los Angeles Police Department started rolling out body cameras worn by officers, the videos have captured confrontations with suspects, pursuits and other high-profile interactions.
But authorities allege a body camera worn by Officer David Rojas recently captured something highly disturbing: the lawman fondling a dead woman’s breasts.
Here is what we know:
How was the incident captured on video?
Rojas 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, Rojas’ partner returned to the patrol car to retrieve something. During that time, LAPD officials say Rojas turned off his body-worn camera and fondled the woman’s breasts.
Although the officer deactivated his camera, a two-minute buffer on the device recorded the incident, officials say. In addition to allegations of assault, the department also is investigating Rojas’ work history.
Currently, when an LAPD officer turns his or her camera on, it automatically begins saving video and audio starting two minutes before the activation. It’s unclear how long the alleged fondling occurred or what caused Rojas to later activate his body camera.
What charges does Rojas face?
The officer was charged with a felony violation of the state safety codes covering sexual actions with human remains. He could not be reached for comment.
Lt. Craig Lally, a 39-year officer and union president, said last week he has never heard of any similar incident in policing. He called the allegations “reprehensible, repugnant” and said, if true, the officer “has no place in law enforcement.”
“The Los Angeles Police Protective League will not defend this officer in a criminal proceeding,” Lally said. “This is beyond pale, beyond acceptable.”
Chief Moore also said he was repulsed by the allegations.
“Let me first and foremost apologize to the family,” the chief said last week on KTLA-TV Channel 5. “I can’t imagine the pain that comes from losing a daughter, a 27-year-old woman, who we’re still investigating the circumstances of her death. But then to have that compounded by new reports of an allegation that an officer broke that trust.”
What do we know about the body camera system?
The LAPD was one of the first agencies to use body cameras on a widespread basis, hoping to provide more transparency in controversial use-of-force incidents.
The department now uses more than 7,000 of the recording devices. The department collects about 14,000 recordings each day and has accumulated 2.1 million hours of video.
In 2018, the recordings helped determine that officers had committed infractions in 56 cases. But police leaders found 264 additional complaints against officers “demonstrably false” or resulting in complete exoneration, according to an annual report presented in October to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners. Both of those figures rose significantly from five and 79, respectively, the prior year.
The use of body-worn cameras has been controversial as law enforcement agencies continue to deploy them across the country. Although the cameras cost millions of dollars to purchase and maintain, citizens and many police leaders say they provide transparency in the wake of high-profile shootings and other incidents.
In 2015, LAPD brass acknowledged that failing to turn on body-worn cameras before a critical incident is a concern, and it worked to remedy the issue.