For the second time in two weeks, body-camera footage from the Baltimore Police Department appears to show officers planting drug evidence at an arrest scene.
The footage from three officers, provided by a Baltimore defense attorney and compiled by VICE News, appears to show police searching a vehicle without finding any drugs and later suddenly discovering evidence. After seeing the video, prosecutors dropped all charges on Monday against the woman arrested during the stop, Shamere Collins, the Baltimore Sun reported.
“It appears in the video that the drugs may have been placed there by the cover officer,” said Collins’ attorney Josh Insley, who released the footage Tuesday. “But the videos speak for themselves.”
The Baltimore Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Baltimore police pulled Collins over on Nov. 29, 2016, on suspicion that she was engaged in a drug deal with her passenger.
A timeline of what appears to happen on the body camera footage provided to VICE News follows (times are Eastern Standard Time).
11:43 p.m.: Officers search the vehicle, including the area around the driver’s seat, even removing parts of the dashboard and CD player. “I don’t see anything,” one officer is heard saying. The car was searched “thoroughly” for about 30 minutes, according to the Baltimore public defender’s office.
12.21 a.m.: A different officer than the one who did the initial search asks his colleagues if anyone had searched the area around the driver’s seat, another time-stamped body-cam video shows. No audible response is given.
12.22 a.m.: The officer who asked if anyone had searched the seat area appears to reexamine the driver’s seat area and pulls out a bag, body-camera footage from a different angle shows. “I knew it,” one officer is heard saying. Another is heard saying the bag contains marijuana and other drugs, later determined to be heroin.
Less than two weeks ago, the Baltimore public defender’s office released body camera footage from a January drug arrest that appeared to show another Baltimore police officer plant a bag of heroin before making an arrest. Police officials contended that the officer was re-creating the discovery, with his camera on, for evidence to be used in court. One of the officers involved was suspended, and the other two were placed on administrative duty.
The video was the latest incident of alleged misconduct from the Baltimore PD, already under close scrutiny. Earlier this year, the department entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to institute reforms, called a consent decree, after investigators identified pervasive racial bias in its policing practices.
The three officers involved in the first video were slated to testify in 123 cases. State’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby — whose tough position on police misconduct in the wake of Freddie Gray’s 2015 death in police custody earned her a national spotlight — said that 41 cases have since been dropped, 55 are under review, and the remainder can proceed due to the existence of evidence not linked to the officers, according to the New York Times.
“The credibility of those officers has now been directly called into question,” Mosby said last Friday.
In light of the latest video, Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis released a statement that “under no circumstances” are officers to “re-create” evidence discoveries. Davis also said that officers’ body cameras are to remain activated at all times. “If you must deactivate your body-worn camera during an incident, merely explain the reasoning on camera” — for example, if an officer needs to protect the identity of a witness who wishes to remain anonymous.