Hundreds more may still be affected.
Baltimore prosecutors are dropping hundreds of cases due to several separate claims of misconduct by police there.
There are two separate misconduct and corruption issues at play. In one case, eight police officers are being indicted of federal racketeering and fraud charges. They’re accused of detaining and robbing Baltimore residents and filing for false overtime. As a result of those charges, prosecutors have dropped 109 cases.
The second crop involves officers being caught faking body camera footage, either planting evidence of crimes or at least “reenacting” the discovery of evidence and getting caught. The revelation that Baltimore police were abusing their body cameras became a national story, and no wonder: The notion that the cameras can be used to fabricate evidence turns on its head the idea that they would protect against police misconduct.
Baltimore has uncovered three cases of police staging evidence discoveries, and this led to the dismissal of 169 other cases involving those officers.
Hundreds more cases may be dropped by the end of all this, according to CNN. Prosecutors say these two types of misconduct have impacted in some way more than 850 cases. A leading public defender in Baltimore thinks those numbers may be too low.
Complicating matters is some additional body camera footage released in August connected to one of the evidence complaints. The additional footage, released by police, does appear to show that the officer ultimately did not plant evidence on the scene. Rather, he found the evidence, realized his body camera wasn’t on, turned his body camera on, then sort of recreated discovering the evidence. This was all captured by another officer’s body camera.
Nevertheless, police, prosecutors, and the public should see this behavior as a problem. Body cameras have been promoted as a tool of transparency, a way of making sure that police are behaving professionally and of determining whether incidents involving the use of force were appropriate.
It’s bad enough that police across the country are attempting to conceal body camera footage from public view. If the footage itself is not considered trustworthy by the public, that’s certainly not going to help police departments build better ties with their communities.