Video from Baltimore Police Department body cameras shows an officer tampering with evidence in a case that sent a man to jail for more than five months, reports have claimed.
The Baltimore Sun’s Justin Fenton recently shared a 90-second video showing what appears to be three Baltimore Police officers standing on a street corner. The camera follows one officer as he walks into an alleyway and places what appears to be a bag of drugs in a trash heap.
He then goes back to the street, stands for several seconds, and returns to the alleyway. He removes the bag from the same trash heap and brandishes it in front of the camera.
Baltimore Police Department body cameras record and preserve footage from the last 30 seconds before they are activated, according to the department's body-worn camera policy.
Fox Baltimore reports that a man was arrested in January on drug charges connected to this video. Mr Fenton claims the man was held for months on a $50,000 bail that he could not afford.
According to Fox Baltimore, the man’s trial was scheduled for last week. It was stalled, however, when a public defender found the video and send it to the prosecutor in the case.
In an email obtained by Fox Baltimore, the prosecutor writes: ”I’ve passed [the video] up and we are all appalled … something is going to happen because of this revelation.”
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
The charges were eventually dropped, but the officer in question was reportedly called in to testify on another case just one week later.
“[The prosecutors] had knowledge,” Public Defender Debbie Katz Levi told Fox Baltimore. “They watched it and were appalled by what was on the video, and then for whatever reason made the choice to continue to call him as a witness.”
The Baltimore Police Department said in a statement that they take the allegations “very seriously,” and have launched an internal investigation.
“We are fortunate to have Body Worn Cameras which provide a perspective of the events as reported,” the department said.
The Baltimore Police Department began rolling out body cameras to the majority of its officers in July of 2016. Officers are instructed to turn on their cameras during enforcement or investigative activities, emergency vehicle operation, custodial transports, or “other activities of a potentially confrontational nature”.
A 2016 Justice Department investigation of the Baltimore Police revealed at least one case of an officer planting drugs on a suspect. A fellow officer said he did not report the incident immediately for fear of retaliation.
That same year, the department settled a lawsuit with a man who accused the department of orchestrating a bogus drug bust at his home.
The city was also the site of riots last spring, when a young, black man named Freddie Gray died in police custody. All charges against the officers involved were eventually dropped.
The Independent has reached out to the Baltimore Police Department and the State’s Attorney's office for comment.