The Camera (does not) Add Probable Cause

An LAPD officer was arrested last week on charges of filing a false police report and perjury (oops!).  The officer, a 13-year veteran, was assigned to LAPD West Traffic Division, which is responsible for all handling all traffic-related investigations and enforcement.

Apparently, the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division conducted an investigation that stemmed from concerns from the LA City Attorney’s Office regarding footage they viewed on the officer’s body-worn camera videos.  And, would you believe it, investigators established that the “camera footage was inconsistent with the written report.”

In English, the camera footage showed one thing and the cop’s written report stated another.  As a result, the DUI charge at issue was not filed.  So, sounds like the officer added a little probable cause to arrest to his written report either thinking that no one would notice or view the body-worn camera, or he just wasn’t thinking at all.

With the increasing use of body-worn cameras by the LAPD, we are now able to see what the officer sees during their encounter with our clients.  Thus, we can compare the contents of the video with what was stated in their written report and, in certain cases, point out meaningful inconsistencies to the prosecutor.  This story above is a perfect example.

Another example, that comes from dashboard camera footage, is a report that might state the my client failed to use a turn signal and this was the moving violation that gave the officer probable cause to initiate a traffic stop (pull the person over).  After pulling them over and talking with them, it was believed that the client was driving under the influence and subsequently arrested.  Well, after viewing the dash-cam footage, it was clear that the client did, in fact, use his turn signal and you can be sure this was politely pointed out to the prosecutor.

If you don’t have probable cause to stop, your arrest crumbles.  Attorney Ross Erlich is always looking out for the availability of dash-cam footage, body-worn camera footage, and other forms of surveillance footage that can help disprove the allegations made by law enforcement.  Leave no stone unturned, a wise person once said.  That’s all part of the job.

If you or someone you know has been arrested or given a notice to appear in court in Los Angeles, contact attorney Ross Erlich today for a free case consultation.

Is more accountability coming to those “bad apples”?

Rob Bonta, the newly-confirmed Attorney General of California, said that his first order of business would be to implement a new law that requires the state’s top law enforcement officer (the state attorney general’s office) to investigate all fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians.  Bonta noted that while the state, and nation as a whole, undergo this “racial justice awakening”, it is important to also have an awakening in “how the state polices.”

State lawmakers have been questioning Bonta’s office regarding if we would allow making police misconduct files public, would share the state’s gun database with firearm violence researchers and how his office would deal with a backlog in the state’s, unique, system of seizing lawfully obtained firearms from people convicted of certain firearm-prohibitive crimes or mental illness.

Now, how does all of this apply to you?  Well, I can tell you from my decade-plus in practice that yes, law enforcement officers do commit misconduct.  Almost everyone does, or has, committed some kind of misconduct, so it may be unfair to talk about this as something unique to police officers.  However, law enforcement officers are in a unique position of being the ones who can take our liberty away, are in charge of “protecting and serving”, who are the ones who write police reports and are there to serve the public.  If they commit misconduct, there is, arguably, “more to lose” than, let’s just say an office manager who steals some office supplies.

So, cop beat you up during your arrest?  Cop write something on the report that wasn’t true?  Cop take your money and not list it in your property receipt?  Well, you might have some (more) official recourse now and a more streamlined way to obtain that recourse.  If these misconduct files and complaints are made easier to access by attorneys, that can help us shed light on facts regarding a specific police officer that should be known to the prosecutor.

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Los Angeles, contact attorney Ross Erlich today for a free case consultation.  If you believe the police have committed misconduct or otherwise abused their power in dealing with you, also contact attorney Ross Erlich so that I can evaluate the facts and potential claims associated with the facts.