The Baltimore Police Department is investigating a video that appears to show a sergeant cough at a woman intentionally as he passes her outside Perkins Homes housing complex in Southeast Baltimore during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Instagram video shows a woman call out to the uniformed officer, who, as he passes her on the sidewalk, coughs toward her.
“After watching the full video, in its entirety, it is not only disturbing, but incomprehensible, especially considering the high-level of strong and clear guidance that we have provided from the beginning, regarding COVID-19,” police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“Members are always expected to be sensitive and professional to the community, but what we saw in the video is alarming because this pandemic is affecting lives not only nationally, worldwide, but right here in our own police department,” Harrison said.
The Department’s Public Integrity Bureau is conducting an internal investigation into the video that was posted online Tuesday morning. The Instagram video, along with the sergeant’s body-worn camera footage, will be reviewed.
The department did not identify the sergeant.
Kobi Little, president of the local branch of NAACP, said the sergeant should be held accountable to show both officers and the community that such behavior won’t be accepted.
Little had called on Harrison to condemn the sergeant’s actions, both “to the force and the public, that says that BPD has zero tolerance for misconduct during this public health crisis and is committed to responding sensibly, compassionately and responsibly as it patrols and answers emergency calls to maintain public health and safety.”
Little continued: “This incident is emblematic of the force’s failure to respect and build trust with the people of Baltimore. It is hard to justify budget increases and spy planes when the police fail to engage the public with dignity and often are themselves a danger to the public."
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott said he also found the sergeant’s behavior “beyond unacceptable.”
“When you are in public service, it is your duty to treat everyone with respect, especially in a time where we are dealing with both a public health pandemic and a gun violence epidemic," Scott said. "This is not behavior that we want our police officers or any of our public servants to model to our residents.”
(Warning: Below video contains explicit language)
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In the video, the woman continues filming the officer as he passes, and she tells the white officer she isn’t worried, saying white people are more likely to get sick with COVD-19.
“They the ones that get that [expletive]. You need an extra layer of skin,” she tells him as he continues walking past her.
Lawmakers have been lobbying for a racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases in the state to determine potential racial disparities. Some cities, like Chicago, have reported that black residents are dying from the virus at a higher rate than other racial demographics. On Tuesday, Gov. Larry Hogan said the state will start reporting the race of patients who contract the coronavirus and those who die from it.
The woman in the video continues to yell at the officer: “Come here coughing like that [expletive] is cute. I should call the CDC on his ass and let them know he did some dirty [expletive].”
The woman then calls out to him, “You ain’t going to infect nobody but your coworkers.”
Harrison announced Tuesday that more than 300 officers have been quarantined since the beginning of the pandemic, including 12 who have tested positive. As of Tuesday, he said 115 were still quarantined.
On Saturday, the department announced the temporary closure of the Southwestern District after an officer had tested positive for COVID-19. Harrison said three of the department’s confirmed cases were personnel assigned to that district.