Article Lead Image

St. Louis police intentionally turn off dashcam video while kicking suspect

It's an important addition to the police camera debate.


Kevin Collier


Posted on Feb 18, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 12:33 pm CDT

Warning: This post contains an auto-play video embedded below.

Four St. Louis Police Department officers stand accused of brutally beating a suspect during a routine car check—and a recently-released dashcam video conspicuously stopped recording before it happened.

In a lawsuit, Cortez Bufford claims that police used excessive force by arresting him, dragging him from his car, kicking him, and shooting him with a Taser.

The video was only recently released and published Monday by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Bufford’s case is still pending. But the incident in question is from April 2014, making it several months before officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Mo. The incident, and a grand jury’s subsequent refusal to indict Brown, captivated the nation—and helped inspire a fervent debate on police cameras.

In the video that is shown, a man is dragged from the driver’s seat by several officers. While he’s down, another cop runs from off camera and appears to kick him in the head, and later kicks him again before the video is through.

“Hold up!” a woman’s voice says. “We’re red right now, so if you guys are worried about cameras, just wait.” The audio in the recording then goes out, shortly followed by the video.

Being “red,” Cortez’s lawyers have claimed, is slang for a police camera being on, an apparent nod to a red light that indicates recording. A representative for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association told the Post-Dispatch that the video really reflects a proper escalation of force applied against a resisting suspect who could have been reaching for a gun.

Police initially arrested Cortez for unlawful use of a weapon, claiming he illegally had a firearm, and resisting arrest, though they later dropped those charges.

Be warned, the video itself is disturbing.

Illustration by Max Fleishman

Share this article
*First Published: Feb 18, 2015, 11:21 am CST