A police department in Wisconsin has fired back after a viral video emerged of a traffic stop that led to accusations that the officer on scene "planted evidence." The police department released body cam footage of the routine traffic stop from a different angle, showing that police did not "plant evidence."
Officers with the Village of Caledonia Police Department had conducted a traffic stop Wednesday for a vehicle traveling 63 mph in a 45 mph zone. Police said that the driver was identified by her license and that the two rear passengers not wearing seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and later removed from the vehicle.
The front passenger, who authorities report had lawfully declined to identify himself, recorded a video on his cell phone that was later posted to social media with the accompanying caption: "Cop caught in 4K planting evidence."
To date, the viral video has garnered over 63,000 retweets, almost 8,000 quote tweets, and more than 223,000 likes. Twitter user @sivrajxx linked the Facebook page of the Village of Caledonia Police, the department "responsible" for what the account alleged. "Do your thing Twitter," the Twitter user wrote Saturday.
Initial video footage from the passenger's viewpoint shows an officer appear to toss an obscure object in the back seat, before the front passenger tells the cop: "I got you on camera, bro." The officer responds, "I got you on camera, we're all good."
"Hey buddy, you just threw that in here," the passengers says, filming a plastic bag in the back seat. Village of Caledonia Police chief Christopher Botsch released two clips of body camera footage Saturday, each taken from separate officers at the scene, adding more context to what happened during the incident.
Botsch said the first video shows officers search one of the rear passengers outside the vehicle. 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 the department's Facebook page.
The searching officer turned the empty corner tear over to another officer who then passed it to the cop 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 of what was observed.
The second clip of body camera footage shows the officer approaching the vehicle while 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 maintains. "It's an empty baggie at the moment too." Botsch said that while the department would discourage police officers from discarding items into a citizen's vehicle, "the video is clear that the officer is NOT planting evidence or doing anything illegal."
The empty corner tear is not itself illegal, Botsch added. No arrests were made, police reported. A speeding citation was issued to the driver.
Since four officers were present on scene, the body worn camera footage and squad camera footage totals in excess of six hours of video, Botsch cited. Authorities are still in the process of reviewing the videos. All videos, "in their entirety," will be released in the very near future, Botsch stated.