A drug case in Baltimore illustrates both the value of police body cameras and how far some bad cops are willing to go to make an arrest. A recently released video from a body camera worn by a Baltimore police officer shows him planting drugs seconds before “finding” them. Two other officers look on as he violates both the law and due process.
Of course, any cop who abuses his authority should no longer be a cop, and any cop who engages in criminal activitiy should be prosecuted, as would be the case with any citizen. But unfortunately, bad cops do more than bring harm to themselves when caught; they also harm public trust and confidence in the many good police officers who place themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve their local communities.
“There’s nothing that deteriorates the trust of any community more than thinking for one second that uniformed police officers, or police officers in general, would plant evidence of crimes on citizens,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis in a press conference after the release of the video showing Officer Richard Pinheiro and two other officer doing just that.
The video is from January and shows Pinheiro planting the drugs in a trash pile near a house in Balitimore before he and the other two officers shown in the video walked back to the street. Pinheiro then activated his body camera — apparently not realizing that it runs in a continual loop, capturing video (but no audio) of the 30 seconds before the camera is activated. Pinheiro then returned to the trash pile to “search” for the drugs he had just planted there.
On the video, Pinheiro — doing an impersonation of a real cop actually trying to gather evidence — can be heard saying, “I’m going to go check here,” after activating his camera. The other two officers — who had just followed Pinheiro back to the the street after watching him plant the drugs — wait on the sidewalk while Pinheiro can be seen going back to the trash pile where he pretends to look high and low before “finding” the bag of drugs in what looks like an old soup can. Pinheiro displays the “find” for the camera and can be heard saying, “Yep!” He then returns to the other two officers, who can be seen waiting on the sidewalk.
As Pinheiro walks toward the trash pile after saying, “I’m going to go check here,” one of the other officers can be heard on the video laughing out loud. Because planting evidence to make an arrest is hilarious.
While full details of the initial case are not public, the drugs that were “found” in the trash pile were used as evidence to arrest at least one man who was held in jail since January, unable to pay his $50,000 bail, according to a statement given to The Independent by a spokesperson for the public defender’s office.
While the video clearly shows that there is a problem with at least three police officers at the Baltimore PD, it was the prosecutor’s office that brought the video to the attention of the public defender’s office.
After spending the months between January and July in jail on drug charges because he was unable to raise the $50,000 bail, the defendant (or to coin a word, fraimant) in the case was scheduled for trial last week. As the trial drew near, both the prosecution and the defense were going over evidence in the case when prosecutors noticed what everyone — including the defense — had missed for months: the evidence was planted.
As a note from the prosecutor shows, the defense was asking for a plea deal to reduce the charge from possession with intent to distribute — which carries a prison sentence of 12 years — to simple possession — which would mean a three year sentence. According to the note, the public defender “was quite surprised” when the prosecutor reached out “to let him know” the prosecutor’s office “was declining his plea offer.” The note goes on to say, “I walked him through the vidclips and he recognized what he’d missed before. He offered a [deal of] time served and I left him with an emailed argument for NP [Nolle Prosequi — Latin for ‘be unwilling to pursue’ or ‘do not prosecute’].”