Second Bodycam Video Raises Questions of Evidence Planting in Baltimore
Last month, a video taken by a different officer's body cam prompted a case to be dismissed.
The specter of police-planted evidence has again been raised this week in Baltimore after footage emerged that shows a body cam being switched off just before drugs were found in a suspect's vehicle.
The new controversy revolves around bodycam footage of a November 2016 traffic stop. In the video, officers searched the car after witnessing what they said looked like a drug deal.
The officers found nothing in the car during a half-hour search, according to the public defender's office. But after turning their body cameras off and then back on, that changed.
When the video starts again, an officer — apparently unaware he is being recorded — is seen squatting by the driver's side of the car, reports WBAL. Moments later, another officer approaches the car, then squats down and pulls out a bag of drugs from near the driver's side door.
A case against a woman who faced drug charges in connection to the incident has since been dismissed.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has asked the public to keep an open mind as an investigation is conducted.
"What was there? I don't know, I didn't see it. The camera was on, now it's off. So does that mean that when the camera was off, some type of criminal misconduct was taking place by police officers? I think that's a conclusion that we just can't jump to," Davis told reporters.
The Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office spokeswoman Melba Saunders said two officers have been referred to internal affairs over concerns about the November video.
Saunders said in a statement. "Before we blanketly characterize their behavior as deceptive and/or a credibility issue, we referred the matter to the Internal Affairs Division of the Baltimore Police Department."
In a separate incident that occurred in January and made public less than a month ago, public defender Debbie Katz Levi says a member of the Baltimore Police Department can be seen in the alleged act of planting drugs as captured in the 30 seconds before an officer actually hits a body camera's record button, but without audio.
Once the record button is pressed and audio starts, the officer is allegedly seen returning to a spot where three other officers had just been standing.
The officer can then be seen picking up a can and pulling a baggie full of pills from it. It appears to be the same can that Levi says the pills had been placed inside moments before.
"The body camera video shows three officers — one hiding and then “finding” what appears to be drugs while two other officers look on and take no action," the public defender's office said in a statement.
Thus far in the January case, one officer has been suspended and two others have been placed on administrative duty amid an investigation.
Officials told CNN that 41 cases featuring the officers have been dismissed or will be dismissed. Fifty-five other cases are still being reviewed.
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