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Baltimore police investigating officer caught on video appearing to cough on black residents

Baltimore police investigating officer caught on video appearing to cough on black residents
© iStock

The Baltimore Police Department has launched an internal investigation after a police officer was caught on camera appearing to cough on a black woman and other residents in a public housing community Tuesday, amid national concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

The police officer can be seen walking toward the woman, who is filming him, as she calls out to him.

"Hey, Officer Friendly, with the cherry cheeks," she said between words of profanity in the footage posted on social media.

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The police officer does not respond in the video, but continues to walk in her direction toward other tenants in the courtyard. He then appears to cough in her direction without covering his mouth.

"I should call the CDC," the woman can be heard saying, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "and let them know he just did some dirty s--- like that."

The city's police department declared an internal investigation into the incident after reviewing the video posted to social media.

"After watching the full video, in its entirety, it is not only disturbing, but incomprehensible," Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday, "especially considering the high-level of strong and clear guidance that we have provided from the beginning regarding COVID-19."

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The department said they would also review body camera footage from the unnamed officer.

In recent instances, threats and actions of intentionally coughing on people or public goods have resulted in arrests and even terrorism charges.

For example, a Pennsylvania store removed nearly $35,000 worth of food after a woman intentionally coughed all over the produce, deli and bakery sections. She was charged with terroristic threats.

The police department has not said they will declare a criminal investigation into the officer who coughed, although Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott denounced the alleged actions of the officer, saying, "COVID-19 is not a joke, and this behavior is beyond unacceptable." 

Harrison, the police commissioner, said the incident on Tuesday was alarming due to how closely the virus has impacted the police force, amplifying the threat that the officer's coughs posed.

Over 300 officers on the Baltimore police force have been quarantined since the pandemic first began, while 115 remain in quarantine, Harrison said. As of Tuesday, 12 officers tested positive for COVID-19 and 59 tests are still pending.