Police bodycam footage out of Baltimore purports to show an officer planting drug evidence.
In the footage taken in January, public defender Debbie Katz Levi says a member of the Baltimore Police Department can be seen in the alleged act of planting drugs as captured in the 30 seconds before an officer actually hits the record button, but without audio.
Once the record button is pressed and audio starts, the officer is allegedly seen returning to a spot where three other officers had just been standing.
The officer can then be seen picking up a can and pulling a baggie full of pills from it. It appears to be the same can the pills had been placed inside moments before.
"The body camera video shows three officers — one hiding and then “finding” what appears to be drugs while two other officers look on and take no action," the public defender's office said in a statement.
An assistant public defender, who represented the person charged with the planted drugs, forwarded the video to the State’s Attorney’s Office last week.
"Officer misconduct has been a pervasive issue at the Baltimore Police Department, which is exacerbated by the lack of accountability," said Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender’s Special Litigation Section. “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.”
Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis called the situation "serious allegation of police misconduct."
"There's nothing that deteriorates the trust of any community more than thinking for more than one second that uniformed police officers — and police officers in general — would plant evidence of crimes on citizens."
The prosecutor's office has dropped a case against the person who was charged for the drugs.
The officer whose camera shows him allegedly planting the drugs, identified in multiple media reports as Officer Richard Pinheiro, is a witness in approximately 53 active cases. Officer Pinheiro was called to testify in another case the following week without any disclosure of this videotape, the public defender's office said.
Commissioner Davis said at press conference Wednesday that the officer has been suspended and stripped of his police powers while the internal investigation is conducted.