Body Cameras

Baltimore Drops Dozens of Criminal Cases over Allegations of Planted Drugs

But for the body camera footage…

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body camera footage
Baltimore Police

Possible police corruption caught in body camera footage has led to dozens of people being freed in Baltimore.

Prosecutors have decided to drop 34 gun- and/or drug-related cases in the city because they involve three police officers who participated in what appears to be planting drug evidence at a crime scene.

The incident was caught in the body camera footage by the officer who planted the evidence. He had planned to capture only the discovery of the drugs, but the body camera system that Baltimore police use is designed to also record the 30 seconds before the camera is formally switched on. In this case, the footage captured the officer deliberately planting the drugs, then pretending to "discover" them on the scene with two other officers.

The officer who planted the drugs has been suspended during the investigation of what happened. The other two have been moved to desk jobs.

Now prosecutors have to go back and look at all the other cases involving the three officers. They have announced that they're dropping 34 cases. Others will likely be dropped soon—77 additional cases involving the officers are still under review. In 12 others, the authorities have decided to move forward with prosecutions due to independent corroborating evidence.

As The Baltimore Sun notes, there is now a second body camera video that suggests something similar might have happened in a previous case. During a drug arrest at a traffic stop, there's a gap in video footage between the stop and the discovery of the drugs that led to the arrest.

It's worth remembering that this all is happening because somebody at the public defender's office in Baltimore noticed it and flagged it for prosecutors. Even after prosecutors had been informed, they used the officer in the center of the controversy to testify in another case without telling the defense attorney in that case what had happened. It was the public defender's office who released the body camera footage to the public, not the prosecutors and not the police.

This is very clear evidence that police and prosecutors should not have the primary authority to dictate the terms for releasing body camera footage or dash camera footage to the public. Unfortunately, as police recordings become more commonplace and states have to figure out how to handle access, we're seeing lawmakers slam the doors shut and declare that these recordings are exempt from public records laws in states such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Instead, members of the public and media have to make the case to police and courts (if they can afford to do so) that some footage should be made public. Officials have wide latitude to decline.

Even though the public defender's office pushed this matter forward, there's still a significant problem here. The public defender's office had this footage since April, but it didn't get around to watching it closely until July. The man charged in this case was arrested back in January, was unable to afford bail, and had been sitting in jail the whole time.

When citizens have to depend on government officials to have access to footage, they're stuck waiting for the gears of bureaucracy to turn. There are legitimate reasons for officials to protect the privacy of witnesses and investigatory processes that turn up in police video. But when police and prosecutors operate on the assumption of secrecy rather than openness for this kind of footage, you can get outcomes like this. Or worse yet, the incidents might never be uncovered at all.

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  1. “Even after prosecutors had been informed, they used the officer in the center of the controversy to testify in another case without telling the defense attorney in that case what had happened.”

    Of course, the prosecutors will be fired. I’m sure the state bar will investigate this and all the offending parties will be properly disciplined by the bar, too.

    1. I’m so certain this will happen I’ve decided to hold my breath in anticipation.

    2. Who prosecutes the prosecutors? This is another reason why a monopoly on judicial services is a bad idea.

  2. Reason. If you want to do some good in this world, you will follow and hound these people until Criminal charges and convictions are brought against these dishonest cops and prosecutors. You have no higher calling.

    1. I loled.

    2. Why don’t you do it?

      1. I would but when you live and work in this state, you learn quickly not to piss off the biggest baddest gang around. Look what they did to Ed Norris and he was one of them.

    3. Why don’t we all hound Reason to hound TPTB to asses criminal charges get convictions
      of the dishonest cops and prosecutors.

  3. Another good reason to legalize drugs. Cartels not the only gangs profiting.

    1. And cop body cameras should be on 24/7. Surely they have enough memory to store a few days’ worrh of content. Donwload the content to a server every few days and keep on the server for, say a year. If there are no incidents in a year, the data can be wiped. If you don’t like this, don’t be a cop.

  4. It would be interesting to understand the psychology behind these officers planting evidence.

    Are they being vindictive because of something the person said?

    Do they imagine they’re doing the community a good service by getting these people off the street?

    Are they trying to cover up for their own misbehavior?

    I’m trying to imagine why a cop would do something like this.

    I understand the motive behind planting a gun on someone if you shot an unarmed man–you’re planting exculpatory evidence to justify the shooting. But I don’t understand why a cop would go to the trouble and take a risk of planting drugs on somebody. What’s the upside for them? Why take the risk of getting yourself in trouble?

    It doesn’t seem to be a rational thing, but then not everyone is rational.

    1. I don’t know how the incentive system works with policing, but it wouldn’t surprise me if arrests that result in conviction = promotions and money for them.

      1. There’s so much money involved with the WOD, I’m sure having higher drug arrest numbers brings something to the department and that probably trickles down incentives to the officers. Although it would seem like there’s enough drug activity that planting wouldn’t be necessary. Yeah, maybe the cops aren’t getting their cut off whatever the dudes involved in

      2. I think felony arrests do help cops make detective.

    2. Also, why take the risk when you know everyone has cameras these days? There has to be some bonus/promotion incentive to get “good” arrests, but I think there must also be an adrenaline/thrill aspect to it as well. They just enjoy getting away with evil deeds.

    3. Originally I think they were saying that the cop really did find the drugs but then realized the camera was off and they did their own little “re-enactment” to get it on camera. Even if true, that still throws enough doubt on their drug arrests to have them all thrown out.

    4. “We know he’s guilty of something.”

  5. Why can’t we just have the cameras on all the time? Any loss of footage within, say, an hour of evidence discovery renders the evidence inadmissible. Any loss of footage also results in a warning for the officer involved, with multiple warnings leading to firing. Also, all footage is immediately available to anyone who was on the scene at the time. They can then do whatever they want with the footage.

    1. Yeah. I’m not exactly clear on how the ‘but the body camera system that Baltimore police use is designed to also record the 30 seconds before the camera is formally switched on’ works, but it seems like the cat’s out of the bag on that one.

      1. The way I heard it described, the camera is always on and recording, and it keeps the latest 30 seconds of video and deletes anything older. When you flip the switch, it stops deleting the older stuff.

        1. That’s almost the opposite of what it should be doing.

    2. Storage costs. This is not as cheap as people tend to think.

      1. Especially when it’s the government

      2. Except…it is cheap. Very.

        At 720p, a 32 gig card can record all shift and then some.

        1. Then presumably you have to copy it off of the cards onto something else. And for a good sized city there are hundreds or thousands of police on duty 24/7. How long do you need to save the video for to make sure nothing gets deleted that might be important?

          I’m not so sure about “very cheap”.

          1. Not sure why you’d need to copy it. A 32GB SD card is $12. Probably less if you buy in bulk. You could just issue a new card at the beginning of each shift, and then store the cards in their original format for some period of time (a few months or so). You can then review them if something was needed.

            1. Yep. You could recycle the cards after a month. I am sure they could get a bulk discount. Let’s say $10 per card, that is $300 per cop. That’s not much.

            2. You would need to copy it off the SD cards because flash storage is considerably more expensive than disks or backup tape.

        2. It does get expensive if you want to maintain “professional” redundant copies to ensure nothing is lost. But it’s not THAT expensive. I’m sure they could afford it just by selling off an MRAP or two.

      3. I can think of a few expenses they could cut to get the needed funding…

  6. The man charged in this case was arrested back in January, was unable to afford bail, and had been sitting in jail the whole time.

    He was probably guilty of something.

  7. the fuck kind of asshole is so bent on seeing someone else in a cage he plants evidence? lamp-post them by their feet until Baltimore is tired of throwing things at them.

  8. The officer who planted the drugs has been suspended during the investigation of what happened. The other two have been moved to desk jobs.
    Sounds like all three are still getting paid tax dollars – – – – – –
    Why am I not shocked?

  9. RE: Baltimore Drops Dozens of Criminal Cases over Allegations of Planted Drugs

    But if more prisoners are released due to police misconduct (there’s no such thing in any good socialist state) then there will be fewer convicts in prisons, fewer reasons to have prison guards, staff, etc in prison, and no justification for raising taxes on the little people for prisons.
    Do you realize the disastrous results that would result to our beloved prison industry if these wrongfully convicted people should go free?
    One can only guess the enormous damage this would do.

  10. Prosecutors have decided to drop 34 gun- and/or drug-related cases in the city because they involve three police officers who participated in what appears to be planting drug evidence at a crime scene.

    I find it difficult to believe judges would allow defense attorneys to bring up to juries the evidence-tampering past actions of any testifying law enforcement officers. What’s this world coming to?

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  12. OT: Sheriff Joe Arpaio convicted of contempt.
    Will he do any time?
    If he does, what kind of pink underwear will be be isued?
    Depends.

  13. ooo a good use for all the money we save from no trannies in the military

  14. Was anything like this shown on The Wire?

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