Photo: Lieutenant Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPD’s police union), holds a press conference on Officer David Rojas’ sexual abuse of a dead woman.
By Zein Amari
Last Thursday, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer David Rojas was arrested after footage from his body camera showed him fondling a dead woman’s breasts. Internal Affairs charged Rojas with a felony for violating state regulations on sexual actions with human remains and he was taken into custody before posting the $20,000 bail.
In October, Rojas was one of two officers that responded to the call of a fatal overdose of a woman. While on the scene, Rojas’ partner stepped out of the house to retrieve something from the patrol car as Rojas stayed in the room with the deceased woman, turned his body camera off, and proceeded to fondle the dead woman’s breasts.
By the time the depraved Rojas turned his body camera back on, unknown to him, it had recorded and saved the footage from two minutes prior. At the end of his shift Rojas submitted his body camera footage to the department, which was later discovered by chance during a random video inspection.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore approved this new guideline of reviewing body camera footage at random, a shift from the previous policy of reviewing footage only in the case of arrests, “use-of-force” incidents, and public complaints. Rojas’ disgusting behavior towards the deceased woman could easily have been overlooked, as the officer that reviewed the footage stated he pulled the video at random from a shelf.
After the footage surfaced, Chief Moore rushed to do damage control, stating, “this incident is extremely disturbing and does not represent the values of the Los Angeles Police Department.”
The police union president, Lieutenant Craig Lally, further attempted to distance the union from Rojas calling his actions “reprehensible, repugnant” and that Rojas “has no place in law enforcement.”
While Chief Moore and the police union are quick to paint Rojas as an aberration within LAPD, their long history of racism, sexual abuse, and excessive violence contradict these claims. Just earlier this year, the department fought tooth-and-nail against a new law requiring the public disclosure of internal investigations into police shootings, excessive force, sexual assault, and lying by on-duty officers.
The implementation of body cameras are just another weapon in the hands of the police to maintain the false image of “accountability” and “transparency,” while being used to back-up police accounts of violent incidents rather than dispute them. This example clearly demonstrates police officers’ practice of manipulating body cameras to obscure or destroy evidence of their crimes. In the case of Rojas, he was only caught because he did not fully understand how the camera worked and likely did not expect the footage to be reviewed.
Not only that, but police will use body camera footage to further incriminate those they detain or harass, citing out-of-context statements to portray their targets as guilty.
As police departments around the country continue to respond to outcries of police abuse with promises of “transparency measures,” officers will find more creative workarounds so that they can continue to exploit and abuse the masses.