Caledonia Police Department responds to viral video of officer

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CALEDONIA, Wis. (CBS 58) --- The Caledonia Police Department is responding to a cell phone video circulating the internet on Saturday, July 24.

The apparent video in question, circulating on Twitter and Facebook with thousands of interactions, shows an officer throwing a small plastic bag in the backseat of a man's car during an apparent traffic stop on Wednesday, July 21.

In the video, you can hear the male driver say, "What's that? What did you just throw in here? I got you on camera, bro."

The officer responds, "I got you on camera, we're all good."

The camera then shows the backseat and the plastic bag. The driver again states, "Hey bro, you just threw that in here."

Police said they conducted this traffic stop because the vehicle was speeding. Police say the driver and passengers were removed from the car and a search was done on one of the passengers. Police did not specify why the passenger was being searched.

Police say during the search they pulled out an empty baggie from the passenger's pocket. According to police, there were no drugs in the baggie. In the video, the searching officer is seen giving it to another officer on scene who then throws the baggie in the back of the car.

A man sitting on the passenger side of the car recorded the entire incident. Police said they did not arrest anyone in the traffic stop but did give the driver a speeding ticket. 

Police Chief Christopher Botsch issued several statements on Facebook regarding the incident, saying, "While we would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s vehicle, the video is clear that the officer is not planting evidence or doing anything illegal."

Chief Botsch also wrote on Facebook that they collected all body worn and squad camera footage of the traffic stop that is in excess of six hours. He added they are in the process of reviewing the videos.

The video online is less than 20 seconds long. The below tweet shows the video, which was posted without context. It is not clear if the Twitter account that posted the video has any firsthand knowledge of the incident. 

Village of Caledonia Police Department responded Saturday afternoon in a statement, saying they were able to locate a call for service associated with the cell phone video. The department said they will be conducting a "comprehensive internal review of the incident."

"All officers assigned to patrol duties are equipped with body worn cameras, and preliminary information indicates the officers on scene of this incident all had their body worn cameras activated," the statement said in part. "In addition, marked Caledonia police patrol vehicles are equipped with dashboard mounted cameras. As part of the internal investigation, we will be reviewing those videos. We will also need to gather information from all officers who were present. "

The department said the complete review will take time. 

"Please keep in mind that the cell phone video that is circulating depicts only a small portion of the entire encounter; whereas, all available video may provide more context," the department said.

The department is asking the public to remain patient and they believe in transparency.

"All body worn camera video will be made available within the coming days," the statement said. "Please know that we are taking this matter very seriously."

CBS 58 has reached out to Caledonia Police and the man who we believe recorded the video. The man has not responded.

Lt. Gary Larsen of the Caledonia Police Department responded and told CBS 58 News on Sunday that "While our initial review is clear that the officer was NOT planting evidence as is suggested, we are continuing with a full review of the entire incident. Please check back on our Facebook page for any updates."

A Facebook group called "Accountability for the Caledonia Police Department" has been created as a result. The man who created the group, CJ DiDonato, released a statement to CBS 58 saying "The chief had a chance to hold his officers accountable for their actions but instead chose to side against the people he's sworn to protect."

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