A viral video showed a Caledonia, Wisconsin, police officer putting a baggie in the back seat of a car during a traffic stop, igniting a flurry of criticism online, but police say it did not contain drugs and the officer was not doing anything illegal. You can watch the video below.
The video went viral on social media, where people are claiming it may show an officer planting evidence. However, Caledonia police say that’s not the case – there were no drugs in the bag, they say. “Since there were NO DRUGS in the corner tear, the officers discarded the empty packaging material in the vehicle. This is what was observed in the video,” police explained in a lengthy statement on Facebook.
The video provoked criticism of police online, including from civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who wrote, “Caledonia PD has launched an investigation into the incident; however, this is a CLEAR example of police abusing their position of power!” Police have not confirmed the officer’s name, although Crump named the officer.
The video was first posted by a person named GlockBoy Savoo, who wrote, “First time ever seeing a cop try to throw sum on me just to get reason to search the car. He ain’t even know I was recording. You can tell he was nervous.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Police Say the ‘Video Is Clear That the Officer is Not Planting Evidence or Doing Anything Illegal’
Caledonia police released a lengthy update on the incident and two body cam videos. Here is the first body cam video:
The second body cam video cam be viewed here in the comment thread of the police department’s post.
This is their statement in full:
On 07-21-21 at about 3:22 p.m., officers conducted a traffic stop for a vehicle traveling 63 mph in a 45 mph zone. The vehicle was occupied by a driver along with front and rear passengers. The driver was identified by her driver’s license. The front passenger lawfully declined to identify himself. The rear passengers were not wearing their seat-belts and were asked to identify themselves.
The driver and rear passengers were later removed from the vehicle. A subsequent search of one of the rear passengers produced an empty corner tear (corner of a plastic baggie) from a 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.
The empty corner tear was turned over by the searching officer to another officer who was on scene. That officer turned it over to the officer who is seen on video. Since there were NO DRUGS in the corner tear, the officers discarded the empty packaging material in the vehicle. This is what was observed in the video.
The front seat passenger tells the officer that his actions are on video, and the officer replies that he is also recording the incident. The officer acknowledges to the front seat passenger that he (officer) put the item there and explains that it was taken from one of the passengers and the officer did not want to ‘hold on to it.’ Essentially, he appears to be discarding the empty baggie. 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. Additionally, the empty corner tear is not itself illegal.
No arrests were made as a result of this incident. The only arrest/citation arising from this incident was a speeding citation issued to the driver.
While this is only a summary of the events, the origin of the empty corner tear and the circumstances under which it was placed in the vehicle are supported by body worn camera video.
Attached are two video clips (see comments for second video). There are two separate clips because they are from different officer’s body worn cameras.
Since four officers were present on scene, the body worn camera footage and squad camera footage totals in excess of 6 hours of video. We are still in the process of reviewing the videos. All videos, in their entirety, will be released in the very near future.
The statement was signed, Christopher Botsch, Chief of Police.
Police Urged the Public to Wait for Context
Earlier in the day, as the video went viral, police released the following statement:
Earlier today, the Caledonia Police Department was made aware of a cell phone video that is circulating social media platforms depicting the actions of a Caledonia police officer. We were able to locate the call for service associated with the cell phone video. The Caledonia Police Department is conducting a comprehensive internal review of the incident.
All officers assigned to patrol duties are equipped with body worn cameras, and preliminary information indicates the officers on scene of this incident all had their body worn cameras activated. In addition, marked Caledonia police patrol vehicles are equipped with dashboard mounted cameras. As part of the internal investigation, we will be reviewing those videos. We will also need to gather information from all officers who were present.
The complete review will take some time, but I have reviewed portions of the body worn camera video. Please keep in mind that the cell phone video that is circulating depicts only a small portion of the entire encounter; whereas, all available video may provide more context.
The Caledonia Police Department believes strongly in transparency; therefore, all body worn camera video will be made available within the coming days.
Please be patient, as there is a lot of information to review. Please know that we are taking this matter very seriously.
People filled the police comment thread with angry comments. “This is disgusting. Takes some time? You can clearly see in the video the bag being thrown into the car. The fact that these officers have a job to protect and serve and are out here doing things like this is HORRIFYING. This response is a joke to not only the community but the country and the LAW. Do better,” wrote one woman.
A man wrote, “Disrespectfully, we don’t want to hear it. Just be honest with the fact that your officer messed up. More than likely it wasn’t the first time he’s done this and if it wasn’t for this video it wouldn’t have been his last. At this point in time you need to go ahead and pull all of this officer’s arrests, stops, and every report that has his name in/on it. I guarantee a pattern can be found and plenty of innocent people’s lives have been compromised because of him. Y’all have to do better.”
After the second police explanation, some people still bashed the police. Others defended them. “Don’t do 65 in a 45 and put yourself into that position! What happened to simple concepts!” wrote one man. “To my mind, and I posted repeatedly how bad this was, this appears to exonerate the cop of the worst accusations,” wrote another.