A Baltimore police officer was caught allegedly planting drugs in the trash of a suspect he arrested in a January bust. The Baltimore public defender’s office released the body camera footage earlier this week.
The video has already led to the suspect’s release. But the 30 seconds of silent footage can be a bit confusing to parse, so let’s understand exactly what’s going on in the footage that has freed one man and has another facing potentially serious legal trouble.
The officer attempted to ensure his camera would not record his actions but neglected to take into account a peculiar trait: An Axon body cam continually buffers 30 seconds of footage, which is then saved when the user hits the record button. This means a half-minute of footage is always recorded prior to the moment the actual record button is pressed. It seems the officer was unaware of this feature, which recorded him planting a bag full of pills in a suspect’s trash heap.
It’s only after the officer drops the drug stash and returns to the street that he activates his camera.
The footage begins with the officer dropping a soup can — which contains the bag of pills — into a backyard lot strewn with garbage.
He and his fellow officers walk out to the street.
At some point, the officer’s hand moves in front of his camera, and that’s presumably when he turns it on. At this point the camera has already recorded 30 seconds of footage.
He walks back to the trash heap alone, and after fiddling around with a couple of things, inexplicably picks up the soup can and pulls out a bag of pills. There’s no indication to think this was part of a thorough search of the back — it would be a seriously serendipitous find were it a real discovery.
At this point, the officer yells out, “Yo!” to alert his fellow officers — who just watched him plant the drugs! — that he’s found the drugs.
The charges against the suspect were dropped, and the Baltimore Police Department confirmed during a press conference Wednesday the officer in question was suspended pending an investigation into his actions. The other two officers have been placed on “non-public contact” duty.