Baltimore officials are investigating a video in which an officer appears to intentionally cough around residents of a public housing complex.
The footage was posted on social media this week and shows an unidentified sergeant walking outside the Perkins Homes in East Baltimore. The woman behind the camera taunts the approaching officer, shouting: "Hey officer friendly with the cherry cheeks." The sergeant then walks past the woman and other residents as he seemingly forces himself to cough without covering his mouth. The woman calls out the officer and insists she knows exactly what he's trying to do: weaponize the fears over coronavirus.
The Baltimore Police Department told the Baltimore Sun it has launched an internal investigation into the matter and will review the officer's body cam footage.
"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. "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."
The woman who recorded the video was also heard shouting inaccurate information about African Americans being resistant to COVID-19. As of Tuesday, there were more than 650 confirmed coronavirus cases and 11 deaths in Baltimore County, where nearly 30 percent of the population is black. However, Maryland officials have been criticized for the lack of racial data in regards to the state's COVID-19 outbreak.
Harrison told the Sun that 12 officers have tested positive for coronavirus and 115 were still quarantined as of Tuesday.