The Baltimore Police Department is investigating a video shared on social media that appears to show a police officer deliberately coughing near residents at a housing complex during the coronavirus pandemic. The officer could be heard coughing while walking past a resident heckling him. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison called the video "incomprehensible," while City Council President Brandon Scott called it "beyond acceptable."
The video was taken by a resident in the Perkins Homes area in Southeast Baltimore. One resident yells, "Hey officer friendly with the cherry cheeks." The officer then walks towards the residents and, as he passes, is heard coughing. According to TMZ, the officer is a sergeant and was still on active duty as of Tuesday.
The Baltimore Police Department does "not condone any action by our members which may be perceived as making light of the COVID-19 pandemic," the department said in a statement to Fox 5 Baltimore. "The Department's Public Integrity Bureau immediately opened up an internal investigation and reviewed the online video, as well as the sergeant's body-worn camera footage. A complete investigation will be conducted and the Department hopes that all of its members and the public will continue to work together with respect as we maneuver forward during this challenging time."
Harrison called the video "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. 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."
"This is not behavior that we want our police officers or any of our public servants to model to our residents," Scott said. "Everyone can contract COVID-19 and all of Baltimore has to take this seriously and treat each other with respect. For public servants, this means carrying out duties with safety and compassion at the forefront of all actions. For citizens, this means adhering to the advice of public health professionals while following government guidelines issued to save lives. I will be following up with the Commissioner regarding this disturbing incident."
Maryland reported 6,185 coronavirus cases Thursday morning and 138 deaths, reports WJZ. The state also released data broken down by race, confirming 2,064 cases and 55 deaths have been African American. About 1,500 cases and 39 deaths were white patients. Racial data was not available for 1,400 other cases. Baltimore has 638 coronavirus cases and reported 13 deaths.