Baltimore Police Officer Caught Planting Drugs in Body-Cam Footage

A Baltimore man was held in jail for months after police found a stash of drugs — but the officer who found the drugs also seems to be the one who hid them in that spot, according to footage from his body camera. The public defender’s office says the man is now free and it is questioning the officer’s involvement in 53 active cases.

The officer has been suspended and two of his colleagues are on administrative duty, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said, as the agency’s internal affairs unit looks at the case.

The recording is from the afternoon of Jan. 24, when the officer, Richard Pinheiro, was standing in the trash-strewn backyard of a row house along with two other officers. At the start of the footage, Pinheiro is seen holding a soup can with a clear plastic bag stuffed into it. He then places the can among rubbish, before leading the other officers out of the narrow access alley.

On the sidewalk, Pinheiro activates his body-cam — apparently unaware that the device would also preserve his earlier actions. “Police cameras have a feature that saves the 30 seconds of video before activation, but without audio,” The Baltimore Sun reports.

“I’m gonna go check here, hold on,” the officer tells his colleagues, walking back to the property — and seeming to spark laughter from his fellow officers. After a “search” that lasts about 15 seconds, he picks up the soup can, pulls out the plastic bag and displays it to the camera, showing that it’s holding white capsules.

“Yo,” he yells. “Hold up.”

The operation resulted in an arrest and months of jail time for the suspect, who wasn’t released until the public defender’s office sent the body-cam video to the state attorney’s office last week. He was held while unable to post $50,000 bail, the Sun reports.

The public defender’s office says that despite the prosecutor’s claims of being “appalled” by the incident, “Officer Pinheiro was called to testify in another case the following week without any disclosure of this videotape.”

The office says Pinheiro is named as a witness in some 53 active cases.

Baltimore Police say they’re investigating the accusation that the officer planted evidence, after being informed by the state attorney’s office.

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SOURCE: NPR, Bill Chappell