Body Cam Footage Leads to Federal Indictment of Abusive Las Vegas Copby Tim Cushing
Jan. 22, 2016
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Body cameras are working as intended. Of course, this is a very limited sampling and the fact that anything happened at all to the abusive cop was reliant on him being either too stupid or too arrogant to shut his body-worn camera off.
A former Las Vegas police officer was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on felony charges of roughing up a woman he suspected was a prostitute.The Las Vegas Review-Journal's depiction of the events ("roughed up") is far kinder than the DOJ's press release.
According to the indictment, on Jan. 6, 2015, while acting as a police officer, Scavone allegedly assaulted “A.O.” resulting in bodily injury. The indictment alleges that Scavone grabbed the victim around the neck with his hand and threw A.O. to the ground; struck A.O. in the forehead with an open palm; twice slammed A.O.’s head onto the hood of his patrol vehicle; and slammed A.O. into the door of his patrol vehicle.And that is far, far kinder than the Las Vegas Sun's description of the incident from early 2015, when Scavone was only facing a misdemeanor battery charge.
Scavone said in a statement that the woman turned her back to officers, a statement police said was refuted by the corrections officer.The federal grand jury indictment is just that: a grand jury indictment. It doesn't take much to convince a grand jury to hand down an indictment, but it is rather unusual to see one stick to a law enforcement officer. The video captured by his camera apparently played a significant part in the bringing of charges -- something that will be applauded by accountability advocates and derided by police unions, etc. who still believe body cameras are nothing more than a nefarious conspiracy to punish cops for doing normal cop stuff.
The assault charge is one thing. It's the falsification charge that's going to hurt, if it sticks. According to the DOJ, Scavone lied in his use of force report. That's netting him a federal obstruction charge which could add another 10-20 years to his sentence if convicted. The civil rights charges alone come with a potential 10-year sentence and $250,000 fine.
Without the footage captured by his own camera, it's very likely Officer Scavone would still have his job and zero indictments. After all, the woman he apparently abused was suspected of being a prostitute. When it comes down to "her word against ours," a woman portrayed as a sex worker has no chance against an officer who had previously received a commendation for meritorious service. And contrary to the assertions of body camera critics, the department Scavone worked for doesn't appear to be poring through its recordings in hopes of finding cops to bust.
Las Vegas police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said it’s the first time his police department brought “criminal charges associated with the review of a body camera on an on-duty use of force incident.”That the DOJ's press release doesn't mention the use of body camera footage in the indictment process is a little strange considering its push to spread this technology to law enforcement agencies around the nation. Of course, the DOJ is also instrumental in defending law enforcement officers against alleged civil rights violations. Sure, it investigates agencies with abusive histories, but it also works hard to ensure agencies remain legally immunized from the consequences of their actions and has mounted several efforts to keep Fourth Amendment protections to a minimum.
It's often a house divided against itself, which may explain why this detail has been glossed over, even if the tech that turned a non-event (according to the officer's police report) into a federal indictment is part of its overall plan to improve the nation's policing.