BALTIMORE (WBAL/NBC) – A 90-second clip of a Baltimore police body camera video led to the dismissal of a drug case, and 53 other cases that involve the same officer might be under review.
There’s controversy over a Baltimore City police body-camera video and whether it shows an officer tampering with evidence.
The 90-second clip led to the dismissal of a drug case, and 53 other cases that involve the same officer might be under review.
The clip is a snapshot of what appears to be an officer mishandling evidence.
The video, which was used in connection with a drug arrest in January, was released Wednesday by the Public Defender’s Office.
“(It’s) a very serious allegation made by the Public Defender’s Office here in Baltimore that Baltimore police officers planted drugs on suspects.
That’s as serious as it gets. I take it very seriously.
Our Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating this matter,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.
The Public Defender’s Office said the video has no sound for the portion showing when the evidence was planted, suggesting that it was turned on shortly afterwards.
“If you watch the video, objectively speaking, and slow it down, in the first five seconds, you can see the officer definitively place a can with something in it on the ground. He then walks away, and then he walks into the alley and retrieves the can that appears that he has just placed down on the ground seconds earlier,” said Debi Levi, with the Office of the Public Defender.
When lawyers with the Public Defender’s Office reviewed the video to prepare for trial, they contacted the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.
“He reviewed the case with his superiors. They were appalled, and the next day, they came in and dismissed the case,” Levi said.
“Three months ago in April, discovery was provided to the defense attorney, which included the body worn camera footage in question. Upon initial evaluation of the case, the ASA conveyed an offer for a plea to one count of possession of a controlled dangerous substance due to the (1) pill of heroin found on the defendant’s person. Two days before the trial date at 11:00 p.m., the defense attorney made the ASA aware of his concerns regarding the body worn camera footage and the ASA immediately took the proper steps to notify his supervisor and dismiss the case. Upon notification of this troubling footage, our office immediately implemented established protocols to not only refer this matter to the internal affairs division of the Baltimore Police Department but began identifying active cases involving these officers.”
Investigators are also looking into the possibility that the officers were re-creating the scene to make a record of it on video.
“Perception is reality, so if our community thinks that there are police officers who are planting evidence during the course of their duty, that’s certainly something that keeps me up at night,” Davis said.
The Police Department released more video associated with the allegation later Wednesday afternoon, showing different perspectives. Still, altogether, the videos do not make a cut-and-dried case. Police also have witnesses to speak with.
“It’s an important investigation because it gets down to the integrity of this organization, and the integrity of this organization, we live or die by it,” Davis said.
One of three officers in video was suspended, and the other two were placed on “non-public contact” administrative duty.