investigators

Body Cameras Turned Off During Miami PD Arrest

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Body camera video shows Samuel Scott being handcuffed, questioned and taken into custody by Miami Police in June 2018.

“This is real messed up,” Scott can be heard saying in the video that was exclusively obtained by NBC 6 Investigators. 

Scott says he called Miami Police after a man stole his car but when officers showed up, he says he became the suspect. 

“I was calling the police and literally I was standing waiting for them and they came and arrested me,” Scott told NBC 6. “They said I was the one who did it.”

According to the police report, Scott “collided with another vehicle,” “fled the scene of the accident” and was then arrested for filing a false report claiming his car was stolen.

Officer Jonathan Guzman, who wrote the report, can be heard on his body camera recording telling Scott why he was arresting him.

“The description of the guy that took off in your car is just like yours,” Guzman told Scott. 

“But that’s half of Miami, bald with a beard?” Scott responded.

Prosecutors dropped all the charges against Scott, which included filing a false report, possession of cannabis and failing to properly store a firearm, which was found in his vehicle.

Miami Civilian Investigative Panel
Officer Jonathan Guzman can be seen on his body camera holding Samuel Scott's wallet.
Courtesy: Miami Civilian Investigative Panel.

After the incident, Scott filed a complaint accusing an officer of taking his cellphone, military ID and wallet with several credit cards.

Some of these items can be seen on Guzman’s body camera video. 

Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) sustained allegations against Guzman for “negligence of duty” since he was responsible for Scott’s property as the primary arresting officer.  

“We can clearly see the officer (Guzman) having the items in his hands. He obviously confiscated it from the community member,” said CIP’s assistant director Rodney Jacobs. “We thought that was really concerning.”

Attorney Bradley Pepper, who represented Scott in the criminal case, is now trying to get his property back.

“I filed a motion to return property, which still hasn’t yielded any results because there’s really no record of those items, as far as what the police did with them or what happened to them,” Pepper said.

Body camera video shows officer Jonathan Guzman holding cellphone and wallet.
Courtesy: Miami Civilian Investigative Panel

According to the CIP’s investigative report, the missing items were not listed in the property forms or handed over when Scott was booked into jail.

The Internal Affairs unit for Miami Police didn’t get a sworn statement from Scott on his missing items and therefore didn’t move forward with the investigation into what happened to the items.

The body camera video obtained by the NBC 6 Investigators should be able to help track what happened to the items, but after Guzman handled the wallet and cellphone, he is seen reaching up to the camera and turning it off without explaining why. It remained off for several minutes.

“It all seemed very suspicious. To this date, we don’t really know what the answer is or why the officer even turned it (his body camera) off in the first place,” Pepper said adding body cameras are a “good tool” to make sure officers follow the department’s rules and procedures.

Jacobs calls Guzman’s actions a violation of the department’s policy.

“Once the body camera is turned on, it should remain on through the whole duration of the interaction,” Jacobs explained. “If it does turn off for whatever reason, it has to be stated why it’s being turned off.”

Samuel Scott seen on an officer's body camera after being taken into custody.

At one point, Guzman can be heard at the police station asking another officer for Scott’s wallet because he needs to “turn it in.” But no further information about Scott’s property is provided or shown on video. 

Guzman, who is on paid administrative leave for an unrelated incident, was one of three officers wearing body cameras at the scene of Scott’s arrest. The internal affairs investigation revealed they didn’t follow the department’s body camera policy.

A review of Guzman’s body camera shows it was shut off at least three times. There is no written report with an explanation of why the camera was shut off.

According to the internal affairs’ report, Officer Randy Carriel also turned his camera off “prior to the completion of the incident” and failed to capture an interaction with Scott. 

Officer Randy Carriel seen on another officer's camera was disciplined over the use of his body camera. Courtesy: Miami Civilian Investigative Panel

The CIP attempted to get Carriel’s video but were told no body camera footage was downloaded by the officer matching the incident.  

IA investigators found Officer Brandon Wiliams was also present but “never activated” his body camera.

“It just seems to me that they all didn’t follow proper procedure and it makes you wonder what they were doing,” Pepper said.

Matt Reyes is the vice president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.

 “I wasn't on scene so I cannot tell you why these mistakes were happening,” Reyes said when asked about the officers’ body camera violations.

If you are standing on a scene, you are thinking of a lot more than I have to press this button on my chest.

Matt Reyes, Miami Fraternal Order of Police

But the union’s representative acknowledges it doesn’t look good. 

“It gives that unfortunate air of suspicion. Do I think that’s what happened? No, it’s not what happened,” Reyes said. “Those guys are all good guys, great cops.”

Reyes says it’s important to check if the officers had a history of body cam violations.

Records provided by Miami Police show Scott’s incident marks the first time the three officers had been disciplined for how they use their body cameras.

The three are among nearly 60 officers who have faced discipline for violating the department’s body camera policy in the past two years.

“We have progressive discipline,” said Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina, who declined to discuss Scott’s case. “In the beginning, we try to give the officer the benefit of the doubt, because it’s a matter of muscle memory.”

Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina speaks with NBC 6 Investigator Willard Shepard.

Colina says his department tracks body camera violations through internal affairs investigations and random monthly audits.

“If you continue to violate policy, you are going to be disciplined,” Colina said. He said an officer with several violations could be at risk of losing his/her job. 

A couple of officers have been reprimanded for body cam violations but records show most of them, like the three in Scott’s case, received a “record of formal counseling.” That list includes some officers who have violated the body camera policy more than once.

“A lot of these violations are really minor,” Reyes said. “We are talking about body worn camera violations like forgetting to turn it on at the right moment, turning it on a little bit late.”

Reyes says making these mistakes is inevitable considering the number of calls officers respond to every day. 

But Samuel Scott believes officers should face tougher penalties.

“The only thing that we (civilians) have to actually defend ourselves to show ‘Hey, this officer is not telling the truth’ is the video cameras,” he said. “What good it is if they can turn it off themselves.”

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