A police department in Wisconsin is firing back after a cell phone video posted to social media accused one of its officers of planting evidence during a traffic stop last week.
The claim made in the cell phone video is that the officer attempted to “plant evidence” in the rear of the vehicle that was stopped. But the Village of Caledonia Police Department is refuting the video with bodycam footage from the officer, who conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle that was reportedly going 63 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone.
Police noted that the officer identified the vehicle’s operator by her driver’s license, while two passengers sitting in the rear who did not have seatbelts on were first asked to identify themselves before being removed from the back seat later.
Meanwhile, police say the front passenger, who legally refused to identify who he was, recorded video on his phone someone later posted online using the caption, “Cop caught in 4k planting evidence.”
The video appears to show the officer tossing something in the back seat of the vehicle while the front seat passenger taking the video says, “I got you on camera, bro.”
The officer responds: “I got you on camera, we’re all good.”
Then, while taking video of a plastic bag in the back seat, the passenger adds, “Hey buddy, you just threw that in here.”
On Saturday, Police Chief Christopher Botsch released a pair of clips from officer bodycam footage taken during the encounter, each of which comes from a separate officer at the scene, to provide additional context.
Botsch said that the first video shows his officers searching one of the passengers from the back seat outside of the vehicle and finding an “empty corner tear,” referring to the corner of a plastic baggie that was discovered 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 wrote in a summary of his investigation into the traffic stop and footage.
The officer searching the suspect handed the empty corner tear to another officer on the scene, who then gave it to the cop depicted in the cell video that was posted online, according to the chief.
“Since there were NO DRUGS in the corner tear, the officers discarded the empty packaging material in the vehicle,” the chief noted in a Facebook post. “This is what was observed in the video.”
In the second bodycam clip, the officer approaches the vehicle and the front seat passenger is seen taking video of the approach with his cellphone. After that passenger accused the officer of tossing a plastic baggie in the vehicle, he can be heard telling the passenger, “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. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too,” the officer noted further.
“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 noted in the post to the department’s page. “Additionally, the empty corner tear is not itself illegal.”
There were no arrests made during the incident. The only police action was the issuance of a ticket to the driver for speeding.
“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 wrote. “We are still in the process of reviewing the videos. All videos, in their entirety, will be released in the very near future.”
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