A police officer in Pueblo, Colorado, showed how easy it is to abuse the body-cam and tamper with evidence.
The district attorney’s office of Pueblo, Colorado, officially dropped felony charges of drugs and weapon possession against a 36-year-old man after Officer Seth Jensen admitted to faking body camera footage of the search of the victim’s car.
In November, Jensen pulled over Joseph Cajar’s car and towed it after Cajar could not provide the officer with registration or insurance during a traffic stop. According to police reports, Jensen found 6.8 grams of heroin, a .357 Magnum, a pill bottle with amphetamine residue and 43 $1 bills.
The entire episode was recorded on the police body camera. However, in March, Jensen admitted the video was staged.
The incident came to light when local prosecutor Anne Mayer texted Jensen to ask about the discrepancies in his report and the footage of his body camera.
Jensen replied back, saying, “For the search, the body cam shows different than the report because it was. Prior to turning my body cam on, I conducted the search. Once I found the (expletive referring to evidence), I stepped back, called (a fellow officer), then activated my body cam and walked the courts through it.”
Mayer then told Jensen he needed to write a supplement to his police report indicating the body cam was shut off during the original search and the recorded one was actually a reenactment.
What’s worse is the fact the video was shown at a preliminary hearing where a judge found enough evidence to convict the suspect — and who now walks free because the evidence was staged.
A police body-cam is supposed to be a tool that provides an unbiased account of what happens during traffic stops. However, this incident highlights how easy it is for the police to exploit it.
"Everyone who looked at the video believed it was in-time documentation of what actually happened," lawyer Joe Koncilja told Ars. The video, he said, shows the officer is "surprised by the fact that he found the gun. It's tampering with evidence.”
Jensen may face disciplinary measures for his action but his irresponsible behavior may have resulted in a criminal walking free.