Body Cam Footage Of A Cop Planting Evidence Leads To Dozens Of Dismissed Cases

from the giving-(drugs)-back-to-the-community dept

It seems as though a Baltimore police officer forgot about one key feature of his bodycam: the fact that it saves the previous 30 seconds of video recorded before the camera is activated. Most bodycams record and dump constantly. The moment it’s activated, the 30 seconds preceding the activation become part of the recording.

What was apparently inadvertently captured by the camera was the officer planting drugs in a can and hiding them in an alley. All three officers then retreat to the sidewalk outside the alley before heading back in to “discover” the drug stash.

If it wasn’t for the fortuitous discovery (in the legal sense) of the video, the officer might have gotten away with it.

There’s controversy over a Baltimore City police body-camera video and whether it shows an officer tampering with evidence.

The 90-second clip led to the dismissal of a drug case, and 53 other cases that involve the same officer might be under review.

The clip is a snapshot of what appears to be an officer mishandling evidence. The video, which was used in connection with a drug arrest in January, was released Wednesday by the Public Defender’s Office.

The term “mishandling” downplays what appears to be happening in the video: a cop generating probable cause for an arrest. There’s a small possibility the drugs were discovered earlier but no recording existed, so the officers “reenacted” the discovery and hoped no one would notice their subterfuge. Either way, it’s something you just can’t do, not if you want to keep your conviction.

As for the other 53 cases under review, many of them appear to be headed for dismissal. And the original estimate of 53 was incredibly low.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby identified 123 cases associated with the officers mishandling evidence as seen on the body-camera video. Mosby said 34 of the cases will be dismissed, and 77 others remain under review.

[…]

“The cases that have been dismissed thus far or are scheduled to be dismissed are felony drug cases or free-standing possession of firearm cases. And we made a decision in every one of those cases after a very thorough review of the facts, that we did not have a case to prosecute without the testimony of one or all of the three officers,” said Antonio Gioia, chief counsel at the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

Note that the attorney’s office is ready to let suspects walk if any of the three officers might be involved in the prosecutions. This is the right way to handle this. The cop who planted the evidence isn’t the only problem. It’s also his fellow officers who did nothing to stop him. All three are culpable for this act — whether it was the deliberate framing of an arrestee or a one-act play performed for the camera to make up for the lack of footage during the original find. In a little more than 90 seconds, three cops destroyed their credibility, possibly forever.

And it certainly appears that these aren’t the only three Baltimore cops doing this kind of evidence planting. As I was finishing up this post, we got some more breaking news of… more Baltimore cops faking evidence:

Public defenders in Baltimore say charges against a client have been dropped because police body-camera video “appears to depict multiple officers working together to manufacture evidence.”

Oh, and that’s not all:

Separately, seven other Baltimore officers on a gun crimes task force are accused of faking reports and false detentions.

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think this might not be just one or two “bad apples.”

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Comments on “Body Cam Footage Of A Cop Planting Evidence Leads To Dozens Of Dismissed Cases”

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82 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

indeed!

If I were to serve on a jury where a person is accused of having killed an officer of the law, I would immediately exonerate them unless the police played EVERYTHING by the “Constitutional” book.

I am tired of cops playing God with everyone’s lives for shits, giggles, and ego trips!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Never lie as a juror!

Sure I might not make it to jury selection. But I will not be answering questions in such a way as to create assumption about my position on matters.

The jury selection process has been entirely re-designed to fill a jury with the dumbest idiots available. Most people have contempt for the jury system and that is exactly what the Judiciary and Lawyers have worked hard to ensure.

I will never lie, I am just not going to tip my hat.

Datahedron (profile) says:

Is it just me, or..?

Am I the only one who finds themselves wondering how all these cops just “happen” to have drugs handy, for planting? I find it difficult to believe that every single one of these “manufactured evidence” scenarios, involves drugs that they found, and just had to re-enact for their body cams.
Perhaps the problem isn’t just the number of bad apples, but the issues with the evidence locker that seems to be oozing baggies of evidence for these cops to plant in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Fact is that one bad cop compromizes the reputation of the entire corps.

While others have commented on your first sentence, I’ll provide a correction on your second sentence.

You left of the "e" on corps.

From the dictionary, Obsolete. corpse.

  1. a dead body, usually of a human being.
  2. something no longer useful or viable.

I take it you were referring to meaning 2 and not meaning 1.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not condoning the actions of the officers, on the contrary. They must know that what they did is not acceptable under any circumstances.

I think the most reasonable scenario is that these officers did in fact find the drugs. And most likely even in the exact spot where they later "plant" them. They just didn’t have any footage of the find.
So they decided to reenact the discovery, but this time with he camera rolling.

It would at least also explain why these cops have drugs on hand during their shift.

As I said, tampering with evidence in this way is a big no-no, and they should be severely punished for it. More so because they undermine the credibility of the entire police force in a time when that reputation is already showing … euh … great strain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They must know that what they did is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Gee, do ya think so, really? Don’t be too rough on them there.

I think the most reasonable scenario is that these officers did in fact find the drugs.

Oh, of course they did. They’re cops, after all!

It would at least also explain why these cops have drugs on hand during their shift.

Because cops would never, ever just so happen to have some "throw down" evidence, as it’s called, stashed in the trunks of their cars.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“They just didn’t have any footage of the find. So they decided to reenact the discovery, but this time with he camera rolling.”

So, to cover their incompetence, they lie for the camera. There’s no way their “re-enactment” would be completely accurate, especially if the original “find” involved them violating someone’s rights or doing illegal things to get the evidence. It’s faked evidence, presenting a false version of the story to further their own needs.

I’d argue that if such a “re-enactment” was presented to a court without being announced as such, it should be treated as perjury and the officer jailed. I’d also argue that if presented truthfully to a court, it should be laughed out of the room as inadmissible.

Machin Shin says:

Re: Re:

Of course if that was true they could have hit record at the initial discovery and TADA they have 30 seconds back showing them finding it.

Of course that assumes 1) Your right and they really found it instead of planting it. 2) They were smart enough to actually read the freekin manual.

On number 1… I really doubt it. On number 2, well they proved they are too stupid to read the manual because this video exists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So they decided to reenact the discovery, but this time with he camera rolling.

If you ever get a speeding ticket (right, wrong, or otherwise) try something similar and see how it goes:

  • Re-enact driving down the same road, but record your speed at the actual limit
  • Present said footage as evidence that you did nothing wrong

Because hey, if it’s reasonable for them, it’s fine for the rest of us, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because hey, if it’s reasonable for them, it’s fine for the rest of us, no?

A big part of the problem goes back to the courts themselves. They tend to view cops as “special” and better than everyone else. Government courts giving special treatment to government agents. Not very just but not surprising either. The system is broken.

Discuss It (profile) says:

Observations

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think this might not be just one or two "bad apples."

I work with LEO quite a lot in my job. In my previous job I worked with LE issues at least twice a day.

My opinion is that 75% of LEO are willing to cheat to obtain "evidence".

Are they evil? They don’t consider themselves so. I believe that it is evil to plant evidence, to lie, and to cheat. Motive to me does not matter.

Here’s the thing: Justice is important to me, and is second only to mercy and understanding. Justice untempered by mercy is not justice, it’s simply revenge.

Yes, there are situations were mercy and understanding should be withheld. But the point of the rule of law is not to blindly apply the law, but to make a livable society. So there are times where we are better off setting aside the letter, and going with the spirit of the law.

People fuck up. It’s important to understand if that mistake is excusable, or if it should be punished.

Lies by LEO should never be excused or covered up.

ThaumaTechnician (profile) says:

Re: Observations

IMHO, the real problem with cavalier attitude to evidence, procedure, and general civility that the LEOs exhibit (likewise for the judiciary and the penal system and the politicians) is that it has a corrosive effect on society.

When the population sees these figures of authority say one thing, do another, and generally lie, cheat, steal their way to positions of unaccountable power, the population realizes that their efforts to be honest, civil, and cooperative in the task of building a Just Society (to use PET’s phrase) are being held to ridicule by these people in power.
(see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_society#Canadian_usage)

So the people stop cooperating with the project of nation-building, of democracy, of civilization.

They become uncivil, they cheat, they steal, they don’t pay their taxes, and they kill each other for the most trivial of reasons. For any country, this leads to disaster. I’m sure you can find any number of examples where this has happened, in a dramatic fashion.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Silver lining on a huge black cloud

Credit where it’s due to the city prosecutor for taking the correct route of dumping any and all cases that might be tainted by those that were caught this time around, that’s a stance that’s far too rare to see.

From the sound of it though they are going to be revisiting a lot of cases, as it seems if not the entire then at least a good portion of the city’s police are corrupt and abusing their power, so hopefully the local attorney can keep up their professional integrity and not let it be subverted by the usual pathetic mindset/excuse of ‘It’s not a problem when the cops do it’ that far too many display.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Silver lining on a huge black cloud

Quite possibly, but even then far too often the local courts and prosecutors will bend over backwards to avoid even so much as a suggestion that the police are anything but entirely trustworthy and honest, so the fact that they are actually willing to drop cases this time around is a refreshing change(even if it really, really shouldn’t be).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Silver lining on a huge black cloud

Why is it backwards?

Are they not bending over forwards to intentionally let the police fuck the judges and the system over? I mean what reason does a judge have to LET a police officer lie? Or to give them deference? Or to let them break the law so clearly?

What are those judges getting back in return for letting the police make public fools of them?

Cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Silver lining on a huge black cloud

Mosby is an African-American woman, and she is the attorney that went after the cops responsible for Freddy Gray’s death. While I’m sure she has political aspirations, and given the riots happening at the time, she probably didn’t have much choice but to announce charges against those officers. However, she did speak quite passionately, and i think she really wanted to take them down. Unfortunately, she wanted all the glory and made some odd choices in how she handled the cases that probably pushed the chances of conviction even further out of reach. The cops are suing her for malicious prosecution, and she did not get qualified immunity; I don’t think she much considers them ‘her officers’ and this could turn out to be huge. I don’t have a problem with her getting political points if she manages to bring the hammer down on the PD.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wait so the excuse in this case is they really found the drugs there, but didn’t have their camera’s on, and so staged it to film them finding the drugs. So the person was guilty, but getting off because the cops screwed up by doing this.

HAHAHAHAHAHA. Ya, and the police really dug around in a small spot in a very large pile of crap and just happened to find these drugs in no time flat.

When the police go and frame people like this. It screws up their lives. They lose everything!!! You’re sitting in jail for months, did nothing wrong, can’t work. Can’t pay your bills. You lose your house, your car, your job, pretty much everything. Maybe the person 7 months later or longer finally goes to court, is found innocent and what does he or she have to look forward to? They lost everything to corrupt police!!! What happens to the police? NOTHING!!!! They keep on doing what they do. There’s a reason they’re called PIGS.

You go on youtube and watch how they will step all over your rights. Lie right to your face. With the blue line, the other PIGS will stand there letting it happen. Which makes them just as guilty.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The Chief has said lets not rush to judgement…
like officers do when a brown person moves to quickly.

We can’t assume that this is wide spread…
Oh hey that 2nd video where 3 of you searched a car & found nothing then 1 leaned in cams back on and OH HEY DRUGS!

I am reminding my officers to not reenact events…
If you have to remind them to not submit made up fantasies, they shouldn’t be cops.

This shouldn’t be an indication of any wrongdoing…
But we have a team of 3 interns & a blind guy reviewing the hundreds of thousand of minutes we’ve recorded already so they are a little behind on seeing if its the real deal or if they are putting on a skit…

So what have we learned boys & girls… that even knowing they might be on camera caught red handed violating the law they are charged with upholding…THEY STILL DO IT.
Perhaps there aren’t enough punishments being handed out & to much administrative paid vacation until the heat dies down.

They fabricated evidence.
They presented it as how it happened, not a reenactment of the events.
I know if I tried to make a case using faked evidence my ass would be in jail… not on leave while they decide if what I did was really that bad or was it in “good faith” that I decided I needed to fabricate evidence.

Ninja (profile) says:

“I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think this might not be just one or two “bad apples.”

It is systemic and it is happening all around the world. It’s just that this time defendants were lucky enough to have footage of them planting evidence leaked thus saving them of years in jail even if they are innocent.

Make no mistake, there are judges involved. While I can’t provide evidence I’ve heard from people working to judges saying they are also working with law enforcement to plant evidence to secure a conviction. Sure there are cases where the person is a slippery criminal but if you can’t get the person without planting evidence then you don’t get him/her, though luck/change your tactics. I suspect this is also happening in the US. The footage leaked just scratches the surface.

The question is, how can this be stopped?

DannyB (profile) says:

It's not a serious crime, get over it

The cop was merely planting evidence. It’s not that serious a crime. He will move on to another job and it will be soon forgotten.

It’s not like he was committing copyright infringement or something equally serious where he could lose his life savings, face prison, asset forfeiture, and even extradition upon the mere accusation of such a serious crime.

dr evil says:

re-enact. and felony possession

do not all ‘re-enactment’ to be a thing .. unless the officers are clearly stating that the video is staged on camera . maybe even with cue cards visible .. then what the officers did was obstruction of justice, crimes commited under the color of authority, and felony drug possesion with intent to distribute…

dr evil says:

re-enact. and felony possession

do not allow ‘re-enactment’ to be a thing .. unless the officers are clearly stating that the video is staged on camera . maybe even with cue cards visible .. then what the officers did was obstruction of justice, crimes commited under the color of authority, and felony drug possesion with intent to distribute… word fixed

Anonymous Coward says:

This isn't the first time...and it's not just drugs

1. This isn’t the first time, or the second time, or the hundredth time cops have done this. The only reason they’re being accidentally caught now is that they have bodycams. Everyone in Baltimore knows that this is standard procedure if they need to make their numbers of if they want a promotion or if it’s a slow day or if they show subservience or if they’re in the wrong place and ESPECIALLY if they’re not white.

2. Sometimes the throwndown isn’t drugs. Sometimes it’s a gun.

So if you’re a black person living in east Baltimore, and you come home tonight to find your back window broken and your TV stolen, do you call the cops? HELL NO. There is no possible outcome of that which is good for you. There are a lot of possible outcomes that end up with you in jail or in the hospital. You’d have to be insane to make that call.

And this, multiplied a few hundred thousand times, is why Baltimore has already hit 200 murders in 2017. The community doesn’t trust them. Doesn’t want to talk to them. Doesn’t want to help them. The community would rather take its chances with gangbangers and drug dealers, because — as brutal as that is — it’s a superior alternative to siding with the cops.

You know how bad it’s gotten? I’m an old white guy, and even *I* might run from the cops if they approach me in Baltimore. (But they probably won’t, precisely because I am an old white guy. I’m nearly invisible to them. I won’t get hassled or stopped, I won’t get followed, I won’t have my car pulled over, etc.)

And I can tell you that is there is zero – ZERO – political will to change this. Doubly given that AG Sessions has signaled very clearly that no police reform efforts anywhere will be pushed.

So cops will keep doing this. They’ll just do it outside the 30-second window. Or leave their cameras off. Or accidentally break them. Why not? It’s not their community burning.

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