Baltimore has been wrestling with yet another police scandal. Last month, the city public defender’s office discovered body camera footage showing a local cop placing a bag of heroin in a pile of a trash in an alley. The cop, unaware he was being filmed, walked out of the alley, “turned on” his camera, and went back to “find” the drugs. The cop then arrested a man for the heroin, placed him in jail. The man, who couldn’t afford to post the $50,000 bail, languished there for seven months. He was finally released two weeks ago, after the public defender’s office sent the video to the state attorney.
The officer, Richard Pinheiro, has been suspended with pay, while two other cops in the video have been placed on administrative duty as the investigation pends. More than thirty other cases the three officers were to serve as witnesses for are now being dismissed. On Monday night, the Baltimore Sun reported that the public defender’s office found a second video that appeared to show different cops “manufacturing evidence.” (The second video has not been released.)
Police body camera footage of officer Richard Pinheiro allegedly planting drugs at a crime scene. Courtesy of Baltimore’s Office of the Public Defender
Now, as the credibility of the entire police-worn body camera program is called into question, the public anxiously waits to see if these two videos will actually lead to any sort of consequences. At a press conference on August 2, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis stressed that the body camera program — which he’s committed to — is still fairly new, and there have been some understandable growing pains as officers adjust to the new technology. “While [those gaps in video footage were] ugly, and while I’m disappointed that officers in these two incidents did not have their cameras on, I think it’s irresponsible to jump to a conclusion that the police officers were engaged in criminal misconduct,” he said, urging the public to withhold its judgment until the investigation is complete.