The city of Baltimore has launched an investigation after body cam footage from a city police officer appearing to plant drugs at an arrest location.
The video, from a January arrest, is from the body camera of Baltimore Police Officer Richard Pinheiro, who is seen planting a bag of pills in a tin can while two other officers look on. The footage was evidence in a case that was scheduled for last week, but prosecutors wound up droping the case after being contacted by a public defender who was reviewing the footage in preparation for court.
Baltimore’s Office of the Public Defender is now demanding that dozens of cases, where Pinheiro and his two colleagues were the arresting officers, be dropped by the Prosecutor's Office.
“The officers involved are still witnesses in other active cases that are currently being pursued for prosecution in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The officer whose camera shows him planting the drugs, Officer Richard Pinheiro, is a witness in approximately 53 active cases,” reads a statement released by the Office of the Public Defender. “The prosecutor claimed to be ‘appalled’ by the video and dropped the charges in that case, but no clear policy has been taken in other cases involving these officers.”
The release also points out that Pinheiro was called to testify in another case the following week without any disclosure of this videotape.
“Officer misconduct has been a pervasive issue at the Baltimore Police Department, which is exacerbated by the lack of accountability.” Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender’s Special Litigation Section said in a statement. “We have long supported the use of police body cameras to help identify police misconduct, but such footage is meaningless if prosecutors continue to rely on these officers, especially if they do so without disclosing their bad acts.”
In the video, it appears that Pinheiro attempts to turn off the camera but only mutes it before he plants the bag of drugs in among a trash pile in a back alleyway. The officer and his two colleagues then walk back out to the street, where he is seen flipping a switch which brings the sound back on. Pinheiro then walks back to the alley where he “discovers” the narcotics. He then brings his find back to his partners before the video ends.
“Officers should not be able to decide when to turn the cameras on and off, and footage like what was presented here needs to result in immediate action by the State’s Attorney and the Police Department,” Levi said.