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Body camera footage prompts review of 100 Baltimore cases

BALTIMORE — About 100 cases involving at least one of three Baltimore police officers are under review by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office. The review comes after the discovery of body camera footage that allegedly shows one of the cops in the trio planting evidence at the scene of a January drug arrest, according to Baltimore city officials.

“My team has been working around the clock to ensure a thorough evaluation of each and every case,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a news conference Thursday.

A team of prosecutors will assess “whether there are alternative ways to prove the case and the officers’ involvement in that particular case,” Mosby said.

The investigation was prompted by the release of body camera video by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender on Wednesday. It shows the officer placing a plastic bag into a food can, then partially hiding it under a piece of debris. Thirty seconds later the audio begins, and the officer says, “I’m going to check here. Hold on,” as his colleagues laugh. The officer then gives a cursory look at other items in the debris-strewn lot and appears to stumble onto the drugs in the can.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said it was possible that officers were re-enacting the discovery of the drugs.

“It’s certainly a possibility that we’re looking into to see if the officers in fact replaced drugs that they had already discovered in order to document their discovery with their body-worn cameras on,” Davis said.

But Thursday, other city authorities, including Mosby, said it is not often they see a re-enactment.

“This is actually the first time this situation has come up for our unit,” said Sandra Goldthorpe, division chief for the evidence review unit within the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Police Department announced that it launched an investigation into the initial incident and released several additional body camera videos from the same arrest. Mosby said authorities reviewed a total of 10 body camera videos from that incident during their initial review of the case.

The 100 additional cases under scrutiny show “some sort of involvement” by at least one of the three officers in question.

One officer in the video has been suspended, and two others were placed on administrative duty pending an investigation by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

While the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office watched and assessed footage from the 10 body camera videos involving the officers, one of them testified in another case in district court on Monday.

The defense attorneys in that case were made aware of the video and cross-examined the officer while he was on the stand, according to Mosby.

“The officer denied planting any drugs,” said Janice Bledsoe, deputy state’s attorney of criminal justice. “My understanding is the cross-examination ended very quickly because the officer was not involved in the search of the vehicle.”

Two days before the trial date for the drug arrest from the video footage, the public defender brought the camera footage to prosecutors. He suggested allowing his client to plead guilty to time served to resolve the matter, but prosecutors promptly dismissed the case upon reviewing the footage.

Mosby said her office reviews 150-318 cases a day, and both the Baltimore Police Department and Mosby’s office have departments that specifically review body-camera footage.

Mosby called the footage “something that wasn’t immediately visible or apparent” when it was initially reviewed, and Davis said they don’t review every minute of the footage.

“This is a matter of public safety and we are laser-focused on this particular incident,” Mosby said.