You never want to believe that things like this actually happen. Unfortunately they do. According to the LA Times, a Los Angeles Police Detective has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of his alleged theft of money belonging to a suspect. Detective Ramon Alvarez, who has been with the force for 27 years, was allegedly seen by another officer taking money of a suspect while serving a warrant. It is not clear where the money was located at the residence in question and how much money is at issue. Nor is it clear how exactly this taking transpired. Nevertheless, the LAPD has taken these allegations seriously. Detective Alvarez’ vehicle was immediately searched at the scene. Investigators found money inside Alvarez’ vehicle they believe belongs to the suspect being served with the original warrant.
Alvarez was arrested. Bail was set at $20,000.
If Alvarez did indeed steel the money, it is outrageous behavior. This is a person charged with upholding the law. Yet here he is using his status and position to violate these same laws. He is a criminal that is flying under the radar. He is in a unique position to do exactly what he is being accused of doing. He is in the position of power. He has access to the money. He is the one that is to catalogue how much money was seized from a suspect, if he is the arresting officer. Who will believe a suspect, a person accused of committing a crime, that a Detective with the LAPD has actually stooped so low as to steel money from him?
Unfortunately, this is probably more common that we may want to believe. I can not tell you how many times my clients have told me that money was taken from them during a search or arrest and not reported by the arresting officer. Ultimately, they choose not to pursue the issue either because they believe they can not prove the existence of the money, the fact that it was taken, or because they simply do not want to accuse and thereby upset the person that is investigating their case.
It is commendable that the LAPD took immediate steps toward investigating this incident. If Alvarez is guilty of this crime, he should be punished harshly. Not only did he allegedly violate the law, but he also violated our trust in him, in the system and in the LAPD the agency that we as citizens rely on to uphold the law.