A crooked Baltimore cop accidentally recorded himself planting drugs behind an abandoned building. The video footage released by the public defender’s office shows Officer Richard Pinheiro planting a bag of pills in a tin can and tossing it onto a trash pile.
The full video, from an arrest in January, shows the plainclothes cop flipping a switch on his body camera. He attempts to turn the camera off but he only mutes the sound.
Two uniformed officers — including a black cop — observed Pinheiro planting the drugs. Pinheiro walks out to the street, and he attempts to flip a switch on the body camera — thinking he is turning the camera back on.
Pinheiro and the two officers then return to the trash pile. After picking through the rubbish he locates the same can. “Yo,” he says as he “discovers” the drugs inside the can.
Baltimore’s Office of the Public Defender found the incriminating video while reviewing footage to prepare for a drug case in court this week.
The Prosecutor’s office dropped all charges after receiving a call from the public defender about the video.
The Public Defender’s office is calling for prosecutors to drop 53 active cases in which Pinheiro and his colleagues are the only witnesses.
“The officers involved are still witnesses in other 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 [action] has been taken in other cases involving these officers.”
Officer misconduct is widespread in the Baltimore Police Department. The wounded city has not healed from the riots that erupted after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in 2015.
“Officers should not be able to decide when to turn the cameras on and off,” said Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender’s Special Litigation Section, 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,” Levi said.
Officer Pinheiro has not been disciplined.
Baltimore police started wearing body cameras in May 2016, two months before murder charges were dropped against the cops in the Freddie Gray case.