An Anne Arundel County police officer has been placed on administrative leave after an investigation indicated he placed a camera in a boys bathroom at
High School, police said Thursday.
A student found what appeared to be a camera about 10:20 a.m. Wednesday and told an assistant principal about it around noon, saying he felt uncomfortable using the restroom, officials said.
The camera was turned over to police, who said their investigation revealed that a 14-year veteran of the department, most recently assigned to the Special Services Bureau, had installed the camera without police or school officials knowing. Both agencies said Thursday that it wasn't their device.
The officer, who was not named by police, was placed on paid administrative leave with his police powers suspended, a routine practice during an investigation, police said.
"We have not recovered any images or recordings," said police Lt. T.J. Smith, adding that it did not appear any images were stored in the camera. However, he said, "it appears capable of video."
Whether the camera had been transmitting to a remote location, whether it could capture sound and how long it was in the bathroom on the first floor of the school's media building are part of the investigation, Smith said.
Police said they are consulting with prosecutors regarding the case. Deputy prosecutor Thomas J. Fleckenstein said he could not speak about the investigation, but in general, visual surveillance in a bathroom could be investigated for possible prurient interest — akin to a peeping Tom — and audio recordings can be investigated for potential wiretap violations.
In an email letter sent to students' parents Thursday and also posted on the school's website, Principal Vickie Plitt said searches for additional cameras on Wednesday and Thursday turned up nothing. The school system has security cameras, but they are in public places.
"Obviously, this is a very troubling situation," she wrote.
"Principals at other schools are certainly aware of this situation," said county schools spokesman Bob Mosier. "We don't have any evidence of this turning up at any other school."
The camera was located on the bathroom ceiling and was in plain sight, leaving open the question of whether someone would make it so obviously visible if the idea was to surreptitiously catch images, or if the goal might have been to deter problem behavior in the restroom. Police said those questions are part of the investigation.