Videos of Baltimore Cops Allegedly Planting Evidence Test Body Camera Programs – Rachel M. Cohen August 5 2017, 6:30 a.m.

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.

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Baltimore Mayor Considers Removal Of Confederate Monuments Jim Kane May 29, 2017 11:16 AM ET

Mayor Catherine Pugh speaks at a news conference at City Hall in Baltimore on April 4.

Patrick Semansky/AP

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is considering the removal of her city’s Confederate monuments, as New Orleans did just days ago.

“The city does want to remove these,” Pugh told the Baltimore Sun. “We will take a closer look at how we go about following in the footsteps of New Orleans.”

Earlier this month, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a speech that drew widespread attention, explaining why he had ordered the removal of that city’s confederate monuments.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivers a speech on May 19, 2017, explaining why he ordered the removal of four Confederate monuments,


Among Baltimore’s monuments to the Confederacy is a statue of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court chief justice who wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision that said, among other things, that African-Americans could not be citizens. The city also has statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

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A video surveillance cameras is mounted to the outside of the Gilmor Homes housing project building in Baltimore, Maryland. | CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

If you live in Baltimore, you may have the feeling that you’re being watched. You are. Baltimore Police track your cellphone use without a warrant. They secretly film the entire city from the air. And as concerns about the uses and privacy implications of that next-generation surveillance tech have mounted, these domestic spying scandals also raise another question: Why Baltimore?

It turns out that Baltimore checks off all the requirements to build a modern American urban panopticon: High crime rates, racially biased policing, strained community-police relations, and lack of police oversight have turned Baltimore into a laboratory of emerging surveillance techniques.

The Spying

On August 23, Bloomberg exposed the details of an aerial surveillance program that Baltimore Police have been using to track cars and criminal suspects. A company called Persistent Surveillance Systems has been flying a Cessna over the city throughout 2016, totaling 300 hours of recorded, real-time video.

Meanwhile, an April appeals court upheld a lower-court decision that BPD can’t use stingray devices—tools that surveil calls and track cell phones by impersonating cell towers—without a warrant. It had been a common practice for the department.

And on August 16, the Center for Media Justice,, and New America’s Open Technology Institute filed an FCC complaint alleging that BPD’s use of stingrays harms Baltimore’s citizens by causing interference on public radio spectrum without authorization. The complaint alleges that stingrays have been used so frequently that they reduce the availability of local cellular networks. “This interference with calls extends to emergency calls. In this way, these devices disrupt the cellular telephone network and emergency services,” the complaint reads. “Worse, the harms that stem from BPD’s use of CS simulator equipment fall disproportionately on Baltimore’s Black residents.”

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The trials of 6 Baltimore police officers over Freddie Gray’s death, explained- Updated by German Lopez on December 16, 2015, 3:50 p.m. ET

William Porter, right, is the first Baltimore police officer to go to trial over Freddie Gray's death -- Rob Carr/Getty Images

William Porter, right, is the first Baltimore police officer to go to trial over Freddie Gray’s death — Rob Carr/Getty Images

The jury presiding over the first trial related to the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray returned from deliberations — with no agreement on a decision on Wednesday. Judge Barry Williams declared the trial for suspended Baltimore police officer William Porter a mistrial. So there will likely be yet another trial, which would force another jury to deliberate over the case.

This is only the first of at least six trials in which police officers face criminal charges over Gray’s death, which many claimed was caused by police negligence and brutality. But how the community will react to the mistrial, given the high tensions in the city after protests and riots earlier this year over Gray’s death, remains to be seen.

Porter was the first of six Baltimore police officers on trial. He faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment, all of which could carry a prison sentence of at least 25 years. As with the other five officers, Porter is currently suspended without pay.

Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord injury April 12 as he thrashed around the back of a police van without a seat belt, restrained by handcuffs, and despite repeated pleas for medical aid. Prosecutors accused Porter, who responded to a call by the police van’s driver, of negligently contributing to Gray’s death by failing to buckle Gray’s seat belt — as suggested by Baltimore Police’s guidelines — and ignoring Gray’s pleas for help. But Porter’s defense team argued that he advised the driver, Caesar Goodson Jr., and another supervisor, Alicia White, to take Gray to the hospital — although he thought Gray might be faking the injuries. Both Goodson and White are among the six charged with Gray’s death.

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Freddie Gray’s Baltimore Neighborhood Watches Trial Warily – By JOHN ELIGON DEC. 13, 2015

A mural of Freddie Gray, who died from an injury suffered in police custody in April, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore. Matt Roth for The New York Times 

BALTIMORE — The tattered city blocks are bouncing to their usual beat. Men are milling between street corners and bodega doorways, buses are chugging along and young men are popping wheelies on dirt bikes.

But something new has sprung up here in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in the months since Freddie Gray’s fatal encounter with the police in April led to fiery unrest: large, colorful, hand-painted murals that cover several buildings and speak to this city’s rich black history. Billie Holiday and Ta-Nehisi Coates on one. President Obama on another. And, yes, Mr. Gray, gazing earnestly and flanked by protesters, on yet another.

It is a reminder that Mr. Gray remains baked into the collective consciousness here. He was certainly on the minds of Ricky McCarter and Thomas Easter as they lounged on a townhouse stoop around the corner from the mural on a recent morning, pondering the latest phase in the saga of Mr. Gray: the trial, nearing a close, of William G. Porter, the first of six officers charged in the death to have his case heard. He faces manslaughter and other charges on allegations that he ignored Mr. Gray’s pleas for medical attention after his arrest.

A block of boarded-up rowhouses on North Fulton Avenue in Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Matt Roth for The New York Times 

The response to the trial has been fairly muted, without mass demonstrations or round-the-clock news coverage. A tense calm lingers over the city. But residents are watching warily, skeptical about what the result will be, deeply aware of the drumbeat of police killings nationally, most with no officers punished.

“I really don’t want to be disappointed,” Mr. McCarter, 27, said as he leaned back on the top step beneath peeling red paint, explaining why he has not followed the trial closely. “I feel like I know how the trial going to go.”

“Around the nation, we watching a lot of officers get off on other cases,” said Mr. McCarter, who works as a security guard and was a regular at the spring protests. “So we kind of expect them to get off.”

Mr. Easter, Mr. McCarter’s 63-year-old uncle, brought up Chicago, where Officer Jason Van Dyke was recently charged with murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

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Baltimore Residents Wary As Freddie Gray Trials Slated To Begin – Jennifer Ludden Updated November 29, 20157:47 AM ET

A mural for Freddie Gray is seen at the intersection of North Mount and Presbury streets where he was arrested in April.

A mural for Freddie Gray is seen at the intersection of North Mount and Presbury streets where he was arrested in April. Jun Tsuboike/NPR

It’s been seven months since protests over the death of an unarmed black man after his arrest erupted into looting and arson, leading Baltimore’s mayor to declare a curfew and call in the National Guard. Now, that unrest remains a potent backdrop as the trial begins for the first of six police officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death.

“I just want peace while the trial is going on,” says Missa Grant, standing at a bus stop across a busy intersection from the former CVS that became a televised symbol of the violence. The store was looted, set fire to, and eventually torn down. The walls of a new red brick structure are now halfway up.

A building is now under construction at the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues where a CVS Pharmacy was destroyed in the riots.i

A building is now under construction at the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues where a CVS Pharmacy was destroyed in the riots.

Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Grant says if the evidence shows the officers are not guilty, so be it. But with such a long and growing list of unarmed black men killed by police all over the country, she doesn’t think everyone will see it that way

“I believe there’s going to be another riot, I really do,” she says. “It’s not what I’m looking for. But I really believe that they’re going to react out if somebody doesn’t have to stand up for what happened to Freddie Gray.”

The officers face six separate, consecutive trials, on charges ranging from second degree depraved heart murder to misconduct in office. Officer William Porter is the first up, charged with manslaughter, assault, and reckless endangerment. He was called in as backup after Gray’s arrest, and was present at several stops of the policy paddy wagon in which the 25-year-old man was transported, handcuffed and in leg irons.

According to charging documents, Porter was present when Gray said he couldn’t breathe. The Baltimore Sun has reported that Porter told police investigators he informed the van’s driver that Gray was in medical distress, though also wondered if he was faking it. Prosecutors say they are trying Porter first because he is a “material witness” against at least two other officers.

“Porter is going to be the key to everything,” says A. Dwight Pettit, a Baltimore defense attorney not involved in the case. “What he negotiates or doesn’t negotiate, whether he’s acquitted or whether he’s convicted, he is going to be the determiner of how the other five proceed.”

Pettit is the first to allege systemic racism among Baltimore police. He’s won a long string of civil cases over excessive force. The city’s paid out millions to settle such claims in recent years. Yet Pettit says the this case is no “slam dunk,” despite that video of Gray’s arrest that played over and over on cable TV.

“That video is very inconclusive in many areas,” he says, as is the “cause of death. It’s going to be a major war between pathologists as to how he died. Ample opportunity to paint reasonable doubt.”

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