A Baltimore police officer is under investigation after a disturbing Instagram video emerged, showing him intentionally coughing at black residents at a public housing project in Southeast Baltimore.
The video has sparked widespread anger amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has infected some 432,000 Americans with a death of more than 14,800. Globally, the deadly disease infected almost 1.5 million people and killed over 88,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Following the emergence of the video, which has been viewed more than 205,000 times as of Wednesday, the Baltimore Police Department immediately announced an internal probe into the video.
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The investigation is being conducted by the Department’s Public Integrity Bureau, and it will review the disturbing video along with the body-worn camera footage of the yet to be identified police officer, The Baltimore Sun reports.
A woman filming the upsetting incident in the video called out the officer as did others, who could be heard saying: “I should call the CDC on his a– and let them know he just did some dirty a– s— like that,” the woman filming says. “You ain’t going to infect nobody but your co-workers,” NBC News reports.
In a statement, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said: “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.”
“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.
This comes at a time research had shown that more blacks, especially those in typically black communities are contracting the virus and dying at a very disturbing rate.
The local branch president of NAACP, Kobi Little said: “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 the officer’s behavior was “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,” The Baltimore Sun quoted Scott. “This is not behavior that we want our police officers or any of our public servants to model to our residents.”
More than 300 officers of the Baltimore Police Department have been quarantined since the beginning of the pandemic, including 12 who have tested positive. As of Tuesday, 115 were still in quarantine.