A Baltimore police officer and two other cops allegedly planting drugs at a crime scene and then “discovering” the evidence moments later.
Police officer Richard Pinheiro has been suspended and two others have been placed on administrative duty. While police said they have not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations, the 90-second Baltimore police body camera video, which was made public by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, belongs to Officer Richard Pinheiro, who appears to hide and later “find” drugs among trash strewn on a plot next to a Baltimore residence. Two other officers appear to be with the Pinheiro as he hides the drugs.
The footage was recorded automatically before Pinheiro formally activated the body cam. After placing the drug-filled can in the lot, the officer and two fellow cops walk to a nearby street where Pinheiro formally turns on the camera, which he apparently was not aware was already running.
According to Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender’s Special Litigation Section: “Officer misconduct has been a pervasive issue at the Baltimore Police Department, which is exacerbated by the lack of accountability,”
“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.” Levi added.
Police played four other videos for the media on Wednesday afternoon to provide additional context.
In the first two videos, officers procure two gel capsules of heroin. The third video has officers approaching the alleged seller of the heroin and shows them arresting the man on whom they found marijuana and a gel capsule of heroin, police said.
In the fourth video, officers undertake an extensive search of a yard identified by the dealer for more drugs. Police said they recovered a plastic bag with 25 gel capsules of heroin.
Davis and Deputy Police Commissioner Jason Johnson suggested that it implied that they were re-enacting the recovery of drugs for the body camera — which is also inappropriate, Davis said.
“The release of [this body camera video] tells me and hopefully [the public] that there was a little more to this,” Davis told reporters.
Johnson and Davis told reporters that there was a four- to five-minute gap in the video.
According to police policy, officers are required to record all activities that are “investigative or enforcement in nature.”
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, a component of the U.S. Justice Department, concluded in a 296-page report that there is not enough research to understand the impact of body cameras but that “the ultimate purpose of these cameras should be to help officers protect and serve the people in their communities.”
Davis said the department would get to the bottom of the matter because he fears the effect it would have on the community.
“Perception is reality,” Davis said. “If our community thinks that there are officers planting evidence in the course of their duty, that is something that will keep me up at night.”