City prosecutors say they’ve come upon a third video depicting a city police officer engaging in “questionable activity” during a June arrest, which will affect an additional 101 pending or closed cases.
Unlike in the previous two instances that public defenders argued showed officers either planting drugs or recreating evidence discovery in November 2016 and January of this year, this video was self-reported by police. Rather than try to leave it up to the public or defense attorneys to characterize to media outlets, police told prosecutors the body worn camera footage captured an attempted recreation of evidence discovery, rather than fabrication of evidence. The video was turned in on Aug. 2. No further details were immediately available about what’s shown in the video.
“The body-worn camera program was established to fight crime, better protect officers, and foster public trust,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement today. “Whether planting evidence, re-enacting the seizure of evidence or prematurely turning off the department-issued body-worn camera, those actions misrepresent the truth and undermine public trust.”
Mosby’s office has already identified 101 active or adjudicated cases that will be affected as a result of the officer’s behavior. Thirty-six closed cases will need to be reviewed, and 43 active cases will be or have already been dropped. Prosecutors still plan to pursue charges in the other 22 cases.
Any cases in which the officer or officers shown in the body camera footage were the material witnesses at trial will lead to dropped cases, the state’s attorney’s office said.
The other two body camera footage cases brought international attention to Baltimore, putting additional public pressure on a department already working to reform its practices under federal court order. Both sets of footage appeared to show officers trying (and failing) to turn off their body cameras before planting drugs to arrest suspects. (Apparently unbeknownst to the officers, the cameras operate for 30 seconds without recording any sound once they’ve been turned on again, which is what captured the officers messing with evidence.)
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis defended his officers in the aftermath, saying both arrests were credible based on other evidence collected at each scene, and that it was wrong for the public to immediately assume they’d planted drugs.
However, he did acknowledge why the public might be suspicious, saying after the release of the January footage that it’s “not part of our business model to reenact recovery of contraband,” and that doing so violates department policy.
Baltimore Police Department chief spokesman T.J. Smith wrote in an email that police will address the newest video at a later time.
In the aftermath of the other two sets of footage, police suspended one officer and placed two others on administrative duty. Prosecutors also referred two officers to the police department’s Internal Affairs Division. Smith said the status of the officer shown in the newest video hasn’t changed.
The city is paying big for the release of each set of footage. The state’s attorney’s office said in an update today about the first two sets of footage that as of Friday, prosecutors identified 112 cases that have been postponed, dropped or will be dropped. Another 206 closed cases are being reviewed as a result.
Altogether, with the newly announced third video, a total of 155 cases have been postponed, dropped or will be dropped as a result of officers’ behavior, and another 242 previously closed cases have been reopened.
This story has been updated with comment from the Baltimore Police Department.