“Bait Car” focuses on the controversial tactic of leaving secretly tracked cars unlocked with keys in the ignition in hopes that passersby will be tempted to steal them. Keenan Alex, 28, was one such ensnared suspect. Though Shapiro claimed under oath that he read Alex his rights, video footage from Bait Car shows the detective only vaguely asked him if he watched TV. Alex had to stand trial after Shapiro’s testimony, but the case was eventually dismissed once the prosecutor realized Shapiro had lied.
In another case, footage belied Shapiro’s report that he read suspects Daniel Mezaponse and Jorge Ponce their Miranda rights before interrogating the two. Both plead guilty and were sentenced to 180 days and 90 days in jail, respectively.
Despite the video evidence, the DA will not file criminal charges against Shapiro. The sheriff’s department is also conducting an internal probe that may result in some discipline.
Shapiro’s misconduct is the latest strike against the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, which is also under federal scrutiny for systematically targeting black and Latino residents. A two-year investigation recently found that Los Angeles officers regularly conduct illegal searches in minority neighborhoods, arbitrarily detain domestic violence victims and minor traffic violators, and make overtly racist comments.
But the LASD is hardly the only department plagued by misconduct. Officers in other cities like San Francisco and New York have admitted that police routinely lie under oath, often to justify illegal searches. A longtime murder detective in Brooklyn was recently accused of manufacturing confessions that landed many men in prison for decades, even when they tried to retract their statements. Chicago police made a policy of torturing predominantly African American suspects with cigarette burns, suffocation, or beatings until they confessed to crimes. In all of these cases, police abuses have cost cities millions of dollars in civil rights lawsuits.