Integrity of Baltimore Police Called Into Question
Baltimore, Maryland, prosecutors have decided to drop 41 cases that rely mainly on the testimony of police officers after their reliability was called into question. In reviewing video footage, prosecutors discovered incidents of them allegedly planting evidence. 55 others remain under review. Only 27 were cleared for prosecution. All cases involve drug-related felonies and weapons possession charges.
The video, which was released last month, show a Baltimore officer identified as Richard Pinheiro planting white capsules in an alleyway while two others watch. The officer then walks away, turns on his body camera, and returns to the spot where he appears to have found the substance for the first time.
The officer obviously didn’t realize that the camera retains footage recorded 30 seconds prior to flipping it on. It is possible that the three officers did find the bag where they dropped it but forgot to turn on the camera, so they reenacted the scene. In any case, one of the officers has been suspended and the other two have been placed on administrative duty. The investigation is still underway.
Defense lawyer Josh Insley released a second video this week of what appears to be yet another staged narcotics recovery at a traffic stop. His client, Shamere Collins, was arrested on November 29th of last year after police stopped her vehicle. The officers said they observed the passenger conducting a drug deal and after the vehicle was stopped, they could smell marijuana. “Those drugs were not in that car when we were pulled out, that state dismissed the case against me and my attorneys are reviewing the tapes to see what steps to take next,” Collins said.
There is a series of views from the body cameras on different officers searching the vehicle. They are turned off, then reactivated, and one of the officers is shown finding a bag of heroin along with some marijuana. He apparently discovered it after that area had been thoroughly searched for more than half an hour. The police department called the discovery a fluke and maintains the officer knew better than the others with him exactly where to search.
“The credibility of those officers has now been directly called into question,” Marilyn J. Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore, said. Baltimore’s police commissioner, Kevin Davis, added that the idea that the officers would have planted evidence is a crime “as serious as it gets”.
The state attorney’s office is requesting postponement of all cases requiring officer testimony. “Before we blanketly characterize their behavior as deceptive and/or a credibility issue, we referred the matter to the Internal Affairs Division of the Baltimore Police Department,” said Melba Sanders, the office’s spokesperson.
Body cameras were added to Baltimore officers’ uniforms in 2016. “We have over 1,500 cameras deployed and expect full deployment of approximately 2,500 by early 2018,” said Baltimore Police Department’s T.J. Smith. Mosby added, “This is kind of a learning and a trial period, right? All of the body worn cameras haven’t even been implemented, and I think that we’re going to go through growing pains.” She says that prosecutors “have been working around the clock to ensure a thorough evaluation of each and every case” in which the three officers were involved.