Baltimore police allegedly switch body cameras off during drug bust in new video

The Office of the Baltimore Public Defender called the video 'concerning.'

— -- Less than two weeks after Baltimore’s public defender’s office released footage from police body cameras that appeared to show an officer planting drug evidence, the office has now released a series of videos from a different drug bust that “appears to depict multiple officers working together to manufacture evidence.”

The series of videos, which show the body camera footage of multiple officers who were working at the scene of the drug bust, involves a completely different set of officers than the incident that took place earlier this month, according to a statement from the office of the Baltimore Public Defender.

In the footage released today, at least seven officers are seen thoroughly searching a car, and then turning their cameras off and back on, according to the Public Defender's Office. One of the officers is seem placing something in the vehicle, then all of the officers step back. Later in the footage, the officers discover drugs in the car.

Prosecutors have dropped all charges against the driver who was arrested in the bust.

“The lack of transparency to the public and refusal to disclose to the defense both prejudices defendants and violates the prosecutor’s constitutional obligations,” Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore City Public Defender Special Litigation Section, said in a statement. “Hundreds of individuals are awaiting trial on cases that rely on these officers, and hundreds more have likely been convicted based on their testimony.”

The bodycam footage released in July allegedly shows a Baltimore police officer tampering with evidence by planting what appeared to be drugs in a yard filled with debris, according to the Office of the Public Defender.

That video was taken on January 24 when three police officers were searching for drugs in a yard filled with debris, Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jason Johnson said in a press release at the time, and it led to prosecutors dismissing the case.

The Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office said that it had referred two of the at least seven officers in the video to its internal affairs.

"We had questions concerning their body worn camera videos. Before we blanketly characterize their behavior as deceptive and/or a credibility issue, we referred the matter to the internal affairs division of the Baltimore Police Department. Pending the Baltimore Police Department’s investigation pertaining to the officer’s conduct, the Baltimore City State's Attorney’s Office is requesting postponements on all cases involving the officers. We look forward to continuing the advancement and pursuit of justice for all," the State Attorney's Office said of the release.

On Friday, State Attorney Marilyn Mosby said that 34 cases of felony drug and gun charges that relied on testimony of the officers that were implicated in the video that was released in July had been dismissed.

Mosby said 12 cases were moving forward on the strength of independent evidence that corroborated the busts, and that 77 more cases are currently under review.

In a statement following today's release, the Baltimore Police Department said it is working closely with Office of the Public Defender and the State's Attorney's Office to investigate the incident depicted in the video.

"Anytime an allegation of misconduct is made, we take it seriously and investigate it fully. Right now, we are investigating the allegation that was brought forth by the Office of the Public Defender and the State's Attorney's Office,” the department said.