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Baltimore Police Department’s Misconduct Scandals Result in Hundreds of Dismissals and Indictment of Eight Officers

by Derek Gilna

A federal racketeering investigation into Baltimore Police Department misconduct has resulted in the dismissal of approximately 300 pending prosecutions and investigations into an additional 850, including some that were already closed. News reports revealed that body camera footage from three separate incidents during the summer of 2017 implicated several Baltimore cops in criminal behavior that resulted in eight of them being indicted.

 At a time when most people carry a cellphone capable of recording video and an increasing number of police departments requiring their members to wear body cameras while on patrol, establishing police misconduct is no longer solely dependent on the credibility of eyewitness testimony. Unfortunately, video evidence of wrongdoing is still not enough to hold those caught accountable or to clear the victims of the wrongdoing in a timely fashion. Even though video evidence in the three incidents involving the Baltimore PD appears to be damning, public defenders accuse the state’s attorney’s office of dragging its feet in dismissing cases tainted by the police misconduct and releasing all of the evidence in its possession.

Some of that video footage shows Baltimore police appearing to plant evidence and alter crime scenes. Public defenders say that there are many innocent individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated as a result of the police wrongdoing caught on video. In addition, some members of the Baltimore PD have been accused of robbing citizens and preparing fraudulent arrest reports.

Baltimore prosecutors have already dropped dozens of cases and claim that they are reviewing an additional 850 cases, including some that are closed. However, Deborah Katz Levi, director of special litigation in the city public defender’s office, believes that more can be done, saying “The state’s attorney’s office refuses to disclose names of officers involved in [some of the videos], and we think they are constitutionally obligated to do so. In addition, they have yet to disclose how they have arrived at these totals and our office has calculated much greater numbers of affected convictions. We continue to encourage transparency and dialogue as we work to undo as many tainted convictions as possible.”

Prosecutors realize that they have a serious problem that has further shaken people’s faith in the integrity of the criminal justice system in Baltimore. According to State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, “As prosecutors, we will remain vigilant in our pursuit of justice and we will continue to do our part to restore public trust and build confidence in the criminal justice system.”

The Baltimore PD was already reeling from internal operational deficiencies and, as a result, was operating under a U.S. Department of Justice court-enforced consent decree, which was intended to prevent police misconduct.

David Rocah, senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that he was “flabbergasted” by Police Commissioner Kevin Davis’ suggestion that the video did not capture the planting of evidence, but rather the recreation of bona fide drug discoveries. 

Rocah observed that “if any other actor in our justice system did it, even with the best of motivations, they would be prosecuted, disbarred, etc. Why are police held to a different standard?” He blasted the Baltimore PD’s handling of these incidents, saying “The Police Department’s entire response to this has been so beyond inadequate, and has made clear that all the words spoken about the need to hold officers accountable mean absolutely nothing.” 


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