Yesterday, Baltimore news outlets shared footage from a January drug bust where an officer appeared to record himself planting drugs he would later say belonged to a suspect. The video, posted by Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton, is staggering.
Image Credit: Twitter/ Justin Fenton
Footage shows officer placing drugs in trash; goes out to street, turns on camera, returns. Cams save 30 sec prior to activation, w/o sound pic.twitter.com/5ZW128lWFM
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) July 19, 2017
While on, Axon body cameras enter "buffering" mode, allowing them to save up to 30 seconds of video before an officer hits "record". Presumably unaware of this feature, the unidentified officer recorded his serendipitous discovery of a baggie full of pills after also capturing footage of himself putting them there in the first place.
When the video begins, the officer drops a baggie of pills into a soup can in a lot covered in garbage.
Then, the officer goes out to the street and activates his camera. To him, this is the beginning of the video. Audio comes in and one of the cops says, "We can go check here."
Moments later, the officer walks back to the soup can (how did he know where to look?) and "discovers" the drugs, shouting out "Yo!" to alert the accompanying officers. Both of whom, of course, were standing right next to him when the drugs were placed in the lot.
Charges were eventually dropped against the suspect. In a press conference today, Baltimore PD confirmed they have suspended the officer implicated in the footage pending an investigation. The other two officers in the footage have been placed on "non-public contact" duty, also pending an investigation.
According to Fox 45 News, the officer served as a key witness in an unrelated trial just days after the revelation:
In an email, the prosecutor says: "I've passed it up and we are all appalled … something is going to happen because of this revelation." The next day charges are dropped, but days later, the same officer is called by prosecutors to testify in another case.
In May, a similar incident was uncovered in Colorado when an officer admitted to "re-enacting" the discovery of drugs and weapons in a vehicle for a body camera. The felony case against the driver was later dismissed. Although civil rights groups initially called for the widespread adoption of body cameras by police departments, those sentiments have cooled as officials have impeded the public's access to such footage and numerous officers have been found innocent despite damning video evidence.