July 20, 2017 / 8:57 PM / 2 years ago

Baltimore to review about 100 cases of officers in suspected drug planting

(Reuters) - Prosecutors will review about 100 cases involving three Baltimore police officers who took part in an arrest captured on body camera video that appears to show them planting drugs, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said on Thursday.

A still image captured from police body camera video appears to show a Baltimore police officer holding a small plastic bag filled with capsules which were filled with heroin powder in the arrest report, according to the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in this image released in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. on July 19, 2017. Courtesy Baltimore Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Charges against the suspect were dropped last week after a review of the video released by the public defender’s office. A minute-long video shows an officer placing a small plastic bag in a trash-strewn yard as two colleagues look on.

All three officers then walk to a sidewalk. An officer returns to the yard and retrieves the bag filled with capsules, which an arrest report said contained heroin powder.

The team of prosecutors will review evidence provided in about 100 cases involving the three officers, who have not been formally identified, she said.

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

The union for Baltimore City police was not immediately available for comment.

The incident was another black eye for a police department under a U.S. Justice Department consent decree to overhaul operations that includes changes in training and the use of force after officers were found to have routinely harassed minorities. [nL1N1HF0VE]

The decree followed Justice Department findings that Baltimore’s 2,600-member police department regularly violated African-Americans’ civil rights, including through strip searches, unlawful stops and excessive force.

Close to two-thirds of Baltimore’s roughly 615,000 residents are African-American.

A public defender alerted prosecutors about the video a few days before the case was set to go to trial last week, Mosby said. Police were also investigating the incident.

One officer seen in the video has been suspended, while the two others have been placed on administrative duty, the Baltimore Police Department said on Wednesday. [nL1N1KB00J]

The department showed other videos on Wednesday, recorded the same day as the footage released by the public defender, that it said raised the possibility the officer genuinely discovered the drugs at the scene but inappropriately chose to stage and film a recreation of the discovery.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio

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