Baltimore cop appears to purposely cough at Black residents in video

While the cop thought it was a joke, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison says his actions were 'disturbing' and 'incomprehensible'

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – JULY 28: A person walks past a Baltimore police car. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A Baltimore police sergeant is captured on video intentionally coughing in the direction of a woman as he walks past her outside of a southeast public housing complex.

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The Instagram video taken outside of a Perkins Homes housing complex shows a woman calls out to the policeman by saying “Hey Officer Friendly with the cherry cheeks,” but as the sergeant walks near her and others on the sidewalk, he jokingly starts coughing in their direction. The woman curses at him, initially saying she’s not worried because Black people “don’t get that sh*t” talking about the novel coronavirus. The woman can later be heard on the video saying she ought to call the CDC.


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Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was not amused. In a statement Tuesday, Harrison called the video “incomprehensible” and “alarming.”

“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,” Harrison wrote in the statement, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was sworn in as the Baltimore Police Department’s 41st Commissioner on March 12, 2019. (Courtesy of the Baltimore POlice website)

“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 added.

The Baltimore Police Department also released a statement and announced its Public Integrity Bureau would be investigating the incident.

“The Baltimore Police Department became aware of a video posted online this morning which depicted a Baltimore Police sergeant repeatedly coughing near citizens in Southeast Baltimore. The Department takes COVID-19 very seriously and we do not condone any action by our members which may be perceived as making light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement reads.

“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,” It continues. “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.”

Police declined to name the police sergeant.

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Also commenting on the Tuesday incident was Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott who called the officer’s actions “beyond unacceptable.”

“COVID-19 is not a joke and this behavior is beyond unacceptable. When you are in public service, it is your duty to treat everyone with respect, especially when we are dealing with both a public health pandemic and a gun violence epidemic. This is not behavior that we want our police officers or any of our public servants to model to our residents,” Scott assured the public.

“Everyone can contract COVID-19 and all of Baltimore has to take this seriously and treat each other with respect,” He continued in a statement released to The Baltimore Sun. “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.”