Baltimore police body cameras have a feature which records automatically for 30 seconds before the officer turns on the camera. This may have been unknown to an officer who allegedly planted drugs and then activated the camera to film their retrieval. This led to the dropping of drug charges against a man arrested for heroin possession and an official review of other drug arrests.
The public defender's office released footage it said was recorded by a police officer during an arrest in January. It shows the officer putting a soup can containing a plastic bag into a debris-filled lot. This camera automatically recorded video for 30 seconds before the officer turned this device on. This feature, however, does not record audio.
After placing the can, the officer walked to the street and turned on the camera. Subsequently, he said that he was going to check the lot, walks to it, picks up the can and takes out the plastic bag containing white capsules.
The police said that they were involved in surveillance of that area known for drug trafficking and saw an exchange. It released three other videos. One was a traffic stop where a person allegedly bought drugs in an exchange. The second was an arrest of a suspect in a convenience store crime. The final one was of several officers searching the lot which was filmed in the suspect video.
Police said that these videos showed drugs being found in each of these three videos. The drugs found in the lot were contained in a knotted bag which indicates drug trafficking. One officer received a suspension and two other officers are now on administrative leave with regards to the videos.
The defendant was arrested for drug charges in January and held in jail because he could not meet $50,000 bail. Prosecutors dropped charges after the video was produced. However, this officer was called as a witness in another case after prosecutors learned about this video without these actions being disclosed to the defense.
The prosecutor's office is investigating this incident which it labeled as disturbing. Public defenders argued that the attorney general's office should take more action. This officer in this video is a witness in 53 other drug cases. Two other officers on the video are also listed as witnesses in other cases.
An attorney can ensure that prosecution is not based on police misconduct. Experienced lawyers may challenge evidence and uncover illegal conduct.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Body camera footage show officer planting drugs, public defender says," Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector, July 19, 2017