On the twitters this morning, a twit by Baltimore Sun crime reporter, Justin Fenton, caught my eye. In one sense, it was a fairly pedestrian video, three cops planting drugs. But what made it curious was that they didn’t realize that the Axon body cam they were using to “prove” how they located the stash retains thirty second of soundless recording prior to its being turned on.
So the three geniuses, despite the federal report and consent decree by the Department of Justice that fixes all that horrible stuff cops do when they think no one is looking, tried to game the body cam, only to get nailed by their own video. Fenton put it on the twitters.
Footage shows officer placing drugs in trash; goes out to street, turns on camera, returns. Cams save 30 sec prior to activation, w/o sound pic.twitter.com/5ZW128lWFM
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) July 19, 2017
Interesting stuff, so I wanted to go into it a bit deeper. But there were some issues. No link to a story at the Baltimore Sun (or anywhere else). No names, cops or defendant. A twit with a story that began, and died, on the twitters.
I searched Youtube for the video, thinking perhaps there would be more info there, plus a clean link to the video to embed here. Plenty of video of Baltimore cops planting evidence, but not this one. Without names or details, I couldn’t find it. It’s got to be there somewhere, but if it can’t be easily found, then so what?
Fenton went on in the fashion of serial twitterers to make numerous additional assertions about the video and the underlying case.
He got a ton of likes and RTs, and provided nothing that will enable this story to see actual sunshine. It will disappear into the ether of twitter. Got one of these cops on your case? Too bad, you don’t have a name.
And indeed, even the twit as to the two side’s arguments is interesting, with the public defender asserting this was a plant, but the response being that this was a “recreation.” To be clear, cops don’t get to fabricate a “recreation” so as to create evidence where none exists. It’s just as much a lie as if it never happened, so it’s only a “defense” to the assertion of this being a plant for those inclined to forgive manufactured evidence.
As if this wasn’t an interesting enough scenario, then two former cops went at it in reaction to these twits.
While the exchange between the two former Baltimore cops devolved (badly) from there, this too would have made for a great discussion of the mechanics of misconduct. But about what?
The tools exist to provide transparency and disclosure beyond our wildest imagination. These are the videos and stories that prove the assertions made for decades, perhaps centuries, in the well, blown off by prosecutors and judges who invoked the simple mantra, “why would cops lie?”
Yet, with all these miraculous tools available to us, they are useless. Without the foundational information, it’s just another cat video, fun to watch and then it disappears into the ether never to be seen again. Was Fenton going for a bunch of likes to prop up his twitter numbers? Was he trying to be the cool crime reporter on the twitters? Or did it just not occur to him that his twits, while interesting, went nowhere because he never gave any of the basic information that would make them useful beyond the transitory sigh of another bad cop video.
The scenario Fenton describes implicates a broad panoply of failures, from the plant to holding the defendant on bail, to trying to force him to plead to cover the video, to the cops being too clueless to realize they hung themselves with their own phony video. And then the broader issues, such as the worthlessness of the federal reports and consent decrees that the unduly optimistic believe will change everything, but changes nothing.
Instead, there’s a video to watch, tsk about and move on as the story, and everything that was wrong here, fades into the ether. What a waste.
Update: Fenton has since published an article in the Baltimore Sun. No names. No shames. And unfortunately, a link to the article, shallow as it was, didn’t appear in any of his myriad twits about the video.
H/T Owen Barcala