Two Los Angeles police officers responded to a report of a possible dead body inside a home and found a deceased woman. When one left the room, the other officer deactivated his body camera.
Unbeknown to him, though, the camera continued recording.
The footage it captured allegedly showed the unnamed officer fondling the dead woman’s breasts when he thought no one was watching.
On Thursday, Officer David Rojas, 27, was arrested by LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division and charged with one felony count having sexual contact with human remains without authority, according to a statement from L.A. County District Attorney spokesman Greg Risling. Rojas posted $20,000 bail several hours after his arrest, jail records show.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Rojas had a lawyer. If convicted, the four-year veteran of the department faces up to three years in prison.
“This incident is extremely disturbing and does not represent the values of the Los Angeles Police Department,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in a statement to NBC News.
Before his arrest, LAPD told The Washington Post that Rojas had been removed from duty pending the outcome of an investigation by internal affairs; he remains under investigation by the division, according to the district attorney’s office.
The incident, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, surfaced during a random review of body-camera footage. It is unclear when the officers responded to the call at the Los Angeles home or how long the alleged fondling lasted. According to the newspaper, the LAPD’s police chief and union agreed last month to allow random inspections of body-camera recordings to ensure officers interact appropriately with the city’s residents and visitors. Police supervisors could previously review footage after arrests, use-of-force incidents or complaints from the public.
The body camera captured the incident even after the officer tried to disable it because of a two-minute buffer, which saves footage recorded for two minutes before the device is turned on, The Associated Press reported. When the officer restarted the camera at the scene, it saved the preceding two minutes and allegedly caught him abusing the corpse.
The officer had previously been assigned to the downtown Central Division. In light of the charge against Rojas, the LAPD said it would investigate his work history, according to the Times.
The LAPD is among a wave of police departments in the past five years to adopt a body-camera program and first deployed more than 7,000 body cameras in December 2014. Some police accountability watchdogs and even departments themselves say cameras can improve transparency and public trust in police, while some critics argue that the constant recording creates privacy concerns for both the officers and the people they interact with, many of whom are not suspected of a crime.
While body cameras tend to reduce the number of citizen complaints, a 2015 investigation by The Post found that videos of alleged misconduct are rarely released, even in fatal shootings, and are sometimes significantly edited. LAPD began voluntarily releasing videos in 2018, and most of the footage that has been made public involves police shootings.