Authorities in Baltimore are investigating what looks like a case of blatant evidence tampering by a police officer, after he unknowingly appeared to film himself planting drugs during an arrest this past winter.
In footage obtained by local Fox affiliate WBFF, a Baltimore police officer is seen placing what is believed to be a bag of narcotics under a pile of garbage in a narrow alley as other officers look on. The officer then retreats back to the street, and appears to attempt to turn on his body camera, apparently unaware that the equipment is programmed to automatically capture the preceding 30 seconds before its activation. He then returns to the spot where he had previously placed the bag, and, after rooting around for several seconds, holds up the drugs and calls for his fellow officers to join him.
According to WBFF, the drugs “found” at the scene were subsequently used to charge a suspect, whose trial was scheduled for last week. However, after reviewing the body-cam footage, the man was offered a three-year plea deal plus time served by the Baltimore State Attorney’s Office, Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton said on Twitter.
Fenton also pointed out that that it’s unclear whether the footage truly depicted evidence tampering, or if it was perhaps a recreation of the circumstances of the police officers’ investigation. Either way, he noted, the video proves that officers are “aware of how to manipulate body cams.”
In an email to WBFF, the prosecutor assigned to the drug case wrote:
I’ve passed it up [the prosecutorial chain of command] and we are all appalled … something is going to happen because of this revelation
The Baltimore Police Department acknowledged the tape in a brief statement to the station, as well.
“We take allegations like this very seriously and that’s why we launched an internal investigation into the accusations” the BPD said. “We are fortunate to have Body Worn Cameras which provide a perspective of the events as reported.”
According to WBFF, the police would not confirm whether the as-of-now unidentified officer seen in the footage remains on active duty while the department’s investigation is underway.