Body camera footage showing a Baltimore officer planting evidence at a crime scene has forced the prosecutor's office to drop dozens of active criminal cases.
Anyone who has ever gone to court knows that a police officer's word is trusted more than a suspect's. If an officer says you were speeding, and you say otherwise, the officer's word will have more weight. But what if an officer is caught lying? What if he is caught on his body camera framing suspects for crimes they have not committed?
This is the challenge that the Baltimore City Attorney's Office now faces. Last week, video footage revealed one Baltimore police officer seemingly planting evidence at a crime scene, and now city prosecutors are being forced to drop dozens of cases connected to the "dirty" cop.
In the publicly released video, three officers gather around a littered lot. The officer wearing the body camera is seen placing a bag of drugs onto the ground. The officer leaves the lot and when he reaches the street, he pauses and you can see his hand reach for the body camera to turn it on. With the body camera "started," the three officers are heard laughing and walk back to the lot first seen at the start of the video. There, the officer wearing the camera pretends to see the scene for the first time before immediately finding the bag of drugs that he had stashed seconds earlier.
All Baltimore officers wear body cameras to record their interactions with the public. It is up to the officer to turn the body camera on, which doesn't always happen in time to capture the entire encounter. Sometimes officers switch their cameras on after already starting a conversation with a suspect or victim. To account for this, the body cameras are programmed to save the footage from 30 seconds before the officers switch them on. Obviously, this particular officer did not know that.
Now, the Baltimore city's attorney's office has been forced to drop all charges connected to the officer in question. Now that evidence exists showing him tampering with a crime scene, any evidence the officer has produced is called into doubt. At least 34 active cases have been dismissed, undoubtedly leading to guilty suspects being released from custody.
The officer in question -- who has not been named -- has been suspended. His two colleagues seen in the video have been placed on administrative leave, pending a full investigation.
While the city prosecutor has dropped 34 active cases, including the one shown in the video, the officer is involved in at least 19 other cases currently before the court. The video now also calls into doubt hundreds, if not thousands, of other convictions. Any past guilty verdict that rested on the testimony of these three officers can now potentially be overturned on appeal.