For the second time in just weeks, police body cam footage has surfaced of Baltimore police officers allegedly planting evidence — this time on a criminal defendant.
The footage, released by local defense attorney Josh Insely on Tuesday, Aug. 1, came just one day after prosecutors dropped all charges against his client because of concerns over possible police misconduct, The Baltimore Sun reported. Insely argued that the video shows officers “engage in what appears to be a staged recovery of narcotics” during the November 2016 arrest of Shamere Collins, 35.
The new footage is now under investigation, police said.
The incident occurred on the evening of November 29 when a passenger got into Collins’ car with what authorities believed to be a bag of drugs for exchange, case records showed. After stopping the pair and searching the car, police said they recovered marijuana and heroin. Collins and her passenger were both charged with possession.
“Those drugs were not in that car when we were pulled out,” the Baltimore woman said in a statement. “The state dismissed the case against me — and my attorneys are reviewing the tapes to see what steps to take next.”
The city public defender’s office, on Tuesday, offered a more complete description of the footage, which is a series of police body cam videos showing several officers rummaging through a vehicle, and then turning their cameras off and then back on in a questionable manner, The Baltimore Sun reported. The office said the videos seem to show “multiple officers working together to manufacture evidence.”
One officer who searched the car can be heard voicing his frustration over the fact that he and fellow officers came up with nothing and that there’d be repercussions if they failed to find drugs and make an arrest, Debbie Katz Levi, head of the city public defender’s Special Litigation Section, said. That’s when the officers flip their body cams off and back on, after which one of them tells the other, “No, you weren’t supposed to turn yours on.”
“When the cameras come back on, one officer is seen squatting by the driver’s seat area,” Levi said. “The group of officers then wait approximately 30 seconds. Shortly thereafter, another officer asks if the area by that compartment has been searched.”
“Nobody responds, and the officer reaches in and locates a bag that appears to contain drugs right by where the prior officer was and where the car had been thoroughly searched about a half an hour prior with absolutely no results,” she added.
T.J. Smith, a spokesman for Baltimore Police Department, told CNN that so far, no officers have been suspended. However, the two officers involved in Collins’ arrest were referred to the department’s Internal Affairs Division. Neither officer has been identified.
The footage is the latest incident to raise questions about the actions of the city’s police officers.
Late last month, video emerged of an officer allegedly planting drugs in a trash-strewn lot during a January arrest. The concerning footage prompted Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to dismiss 34 criminal cases involving that officer and two others.
For Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, it’s too early to reach a conclusion about the latest tapes. Davis urged the public to wait until the investigation is complete.
“I think it’s irresponsible to jump to a conclusion that the police officers were engaged in criminal misconduct,” he told reporters. “That’s a heavy allegation to make.”