A Wisconsin police chief came to the defense of one of his officers who was the subject of viral video that showed him throwing a plastic bag in the back of a car he pulled over on Wednesday. In the video earlier discovered by CBS 58, a passenger in the car can be heard saying: “Hey bro, what’s that?” The officer, who hasn’t been named publicly, responded with: “What’s what?” In the exchange that played out in less than 20 seconds, the passenger questioning the officer said he saw the cop throw the bag into the car and was recording. “I got you on camera bro,” the passenger said. The officer responded with: “I got you on camera, we’re all good.”
Caledonia Police Chief Christopher Botsch said in a statement released on Saturday that in conducting an internal review of the incident additional footage from the body-cameras of officers on the scene revealed the officer “is NOT planting evidence or doing anything illegal.”
Botsch said in the statement:
“On 07-21-21 at about 3:22pm, 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.”
In an earlier statement, the police chief asked the public to “please be patient” and said “there is a lot of information to review.” It’s a difficult ask in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder captured on video that was for many an eye-opening look into how police officers savagely treat people of color.
The responses to the Caledonia police chief’s video are beyond telling of how much distrust there is in communities throughout the country regarding police. “What was the probable cause for them being searched in the first place?” Facebook user Lena Williams asked in the comments of the police chief’s Facebook post. “You don’t search someone’s car because they’re speeding!!! This video is some bs and the statement made! Show the alleged 6 hours of footage, we got time!!!!” Jessica Carter, a white Facebook user, wrote: “I got pulled over for speeding, the passenger nor myself were never asked to exit the vehicle to be searched.”
Justin Davis, another Facebook user, wrote: “If you pulled the baggie off the dude he wouldn’t have thrown it back in the car it would be on the cops hood as evidence. Clearly a dirty department.”
Early cell phone footage of the Caledonia incident:
Botsch’s initial statement in full:
“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.Christopher BotschChief of Police”
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.