July 4, 2012 at 8:47 AM ET
On TruTv’s true-crime reality show “Bait Car,” the premise is simple: Law enforcement officers leave the keys in the ignition of a tempting vehicle, allowing potential car thieves to come to them for an easy, on-camera bust. But as it turns out, those cameras can work in the suspect's favor too.
As NBC News correspondent Kristen Dahlgren explained on TODAY Wednesday morning, last July, 28-year-old Keenan Alex took the bait and helped himself to a seat behind the wheel of a Cadillac Escalade and, unwittingly, in front of the TruTv cameras. Officers moved in and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detective Anthony Shapiro made the arrest.
“You know your rights, right? You know all that stuff?” Sharpiro could be heard asking Alex in TruTV footage. “You watch TV; you know your rights. So, I’m going to ask you some questions if that’s OK.”
But it wasn’t OK. While the cameras later caught Shapiro assuring his fellow officers that he had read the suspect his Miranda rights, the cameras never caught him actually doing that.
Once the case went to court, Sharpiro testified that he “read it from a card in my wallet -- in my notebook.”
Alex’s attorney, Priya Bala, reviewed the reality TV footage of the arrest and presented it as evidence. The prosecutor then dropped the case against Alex.
Despite the outcome, critics question whether or not reality TV cameras should be on the scene of a crime alongside law enforcement at all, and whether or not they’re simply there for financial reasons.
“We’ve always done the (bait car) scenario,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore explained to TODAY. He went on to defend the addition of reality TV cameras, saying, “Once they film it, it expands the fact that this scenario does indeed exist. And then it hopefully, and we think it does, acts as a deterrent. We have no financial incentive to do this.”
Det. Shaprio has been suspended with pay while the incident concerning Alex’s arrest is under investigation.
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