A police department in Wisconsin is hitting back against a cell phone video taken during a traffic stop circulating on social media, arguing that body camera footage showing the incident from a different vantage point, proves that an officer did not try to “plant evidence” in the back seat of the vehicle.
The incident happened Wednesday at about 3:22 p.m. when officers from the Village of Caledonia Police Department conducted a traffic stop for a vehicle traveling 63 mph in a 45 mph zone. The driver was identified by her driver’s license, and two rear passengers who were not wearing seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and were later removed from the vehicle, police said.
The front passenger, who police say lawfully declined to identify himself, recorded a video on his cell phone that was later posted to social media with the caption, “Cop caught in 4K planting evidence.”
It shows an officer appear to toss something in the back seat, before the front passenger tells him, “I got you on camera, bro.” The officer responds, “I got you on camera, we’re all good.”
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“Hey buddy, you just threw that in here,” the passengers says, filming a plastic bag in the back seat.
Village of Caledonia Chief of Police Christopher Botsch on Saturday released two clips of body camera footage, each taken from separate officers at the scene, adding more context to what happened.
He said the first video shows officers search one of the rear passengers outside the vehicle and an “empty corner tear,” or corner of a plastic baggie, was found in the passenger’s pocket.
“The empty corner tear did NOT contain any illegal substance; however, this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs,” Botsch said in a summary of events shared to Facebook.
The searching officer turned the empty corner tear over to another officer, who then passed it to the officer seen in the cell phone video that circulated online, Botsch said.
“Since there were NO DRUGS in the corner tear, the officers discarded the empty packaging material in the vehicle,” the chief wrote. “This is what was observed in the video.”
The second clip of body camera footage shows the officer approach the vehicle, as the front passenger can be seen in view recording on his cell phone using its front camera. After the passenger accuses the officer of throwing the plastic baggie in the vehicle, the officer is heard saying, “Yeah, because it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their bodycam that they took it off of him.”
“I’m telling you where it came from,” the officer insists. “It’s an empty baggie at the moment too.”
“While we would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s vehicle, the video is clear that the officer is NOT planting evidence or doing anything illegal,” Botsch said in the post shared to the department’s page. “Additionally, the empty corner tear is not itself illegal.”
No arrests were made as a result of this incident, police said. The only arrest/citation arising from this incident was a speeding citation issued to the driver.
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“Since four officers were present on scene, the body worn camera footage and squad camera footage totals in excess of 6 hours of video,” Botsch said. “We are still in the process of reviewing the videos. All videos, in their entirety, will be released in the very near future.”