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.
Richard Scavone, 49, was charged with violating the civil rights of the woman when he used excessive force while arresting her in January 2015 and falsifying his report of the encounter to obstruct an FBI investigation, according to the Justice Department.
The woman was identified in the indictment only by her initials, A.O.
Scavone, who also faces a local misdemeanor battery charge in the incident, has been summoned to answer the two felony counts in federal court on Jan. 20. He is to appear in Las Vegas Justice Court that day, as well.
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.
When she asked how she could put her palms together if he had her hands, Scavone threatened to "dump (her) on the floor" and handcuffed her, the report said.
He then told her to spread her feet, and when she replied, "My feet are straight," he grabbed the back of her neck and threw her on the ground, according to the report.
The woman cursed and told him to take her to jail, and Scavone struck her face with an open hand before grabbing her left shoulder and dragging her several feet away from his vehicle to get her on her stomach, the report said.
Scavone asked the woman if she was "finished fighting" him, the report said.
The corrections officer and Scavone picked the woman up and walked her back to the vehicle, where Scavone grabbed her elbow and reached for her necklace, police said.
When she turned away, he slammed her head twice on the patrol car, police said.
He reportedly told her not to pull away from him and reached inside her dress, pulling out a condom and a cellphone, the report said.
Scavone said in his statement he retrieved the items, which were in the area near her breast and armpit, at least partially for officer safety because they could have been weapons, police said.
The woman, who was not wearing a bra, told Scavone multiple times not to touch her breast, and Scavone pinched her right breast through her dress before removing an undisclosed item from inside the dress, police said.
Police did not find any weapons on the woman, the report said.
Scavone accused the woman of reaching for something, and he grabbed her ponytail and slammed her head on the patrol vehicle again, police said.
He pulled her ponytail as he pushed her head against the vehicle, and she screamed, the report said.
He led her to the back seat of the patrol vehicle while holding her ponytail and slammed her into the passenger window, police said.
"You resisted and fought me," he told the woman, according to the report.
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.