The Baltimore Police Department launched an investigation into one of its sergeants after a video surfaced on social media showing him repeatedly coughing as he walks past a group of residents at a public housing complex.
In the video, a woman filming calls out to the officer. As he walks past the woman, the officer coughs several times without covering his mouth.
She continues to film as the officer, who is white, coughs again as he passes several more people. The woman filming yells to the officer that she isn’t worried because black people don’t get the coronavirus.
In fact, black people in the U.S. may be dying disproportionately in the pandemic, despite a dangerous myth that the virus doesn’t affect them.
“Cough yo white a– back where you live at,” the woman filming says to the officer. Other people then call out the officer for coughing.
“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.”
Kobi Little, president of the Baltimore city NAACP branch, called the officer’s actions disturbing.
“This officer must immediately be pulled from contact with the public and subsequently held accountable for his actions,” Little said in a statement. “This incident is emblematic of the Force’s failure to respect and build trust with the people of Baltimore.”
The incident happened at the Perkins Homes public housing complex in the southeast part of the city, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Police have not identified the sergeant and did not say why he was at the complex. The department’s Public Integrity Bureau has launched an internal investigation into the incident and reviewed the social media video as well as the officer’s body-worn camera, a police spokesperson said.
“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,” police said in a statement.
“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,” the statement continued.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the video is “not only disturbing but incomprehensible.”
“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 commissioner said.
On Monday, the department announced that eight police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to NBC affiliate WBAL-TV in Baltimore.
Since the beginning of the virus outbreak, more than 300 officers and civilians of the police department have had to quarantine due to potential exposure to the coronavirus, the outlet said.