One Baltimore police officer has been suspended and two others placed on desk duty, after newly surfaced body camera video appeared to show one of the officers planting drugs during an arrest last January. In the video, Officer Richard Pinheiro is seen stashing a soup container in a lot strewn with garbage as two of his colleagues look on.

The officer briefly walks out to the street and returns to the site where he removes a plastic bag full of white capsules from the soup container. The officer was apparently unaware of a feature of his camera that stored 30 seconds of extra footage ahead of the moment he activated the device.  The footage was caught on camera in January but not discovered by a public defender until this month.  The public defender forwarded the video to the prosecutors in the case.   After the video’s release, prosecutors dropped heroin possession charges against the man who had been held in jail since January, unable to pay his $50,000 bail.  The prosecution team said that they were appalled by the behavior of the police officer.

Body cameras capture the 30 seconds before an officer actually hits the record button, but without audio. Baltimore police have said they believe the officer was recreating the discovery of drugs for the body cam.  The video has led to an investigation by the BPD’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Officials have since released more video to back up their claims as they continue to investigate these serious allegations. Footage taken moments before the original video shows the man being arrested and the officers finding marijuana and heroin on his person. They then headed into the alley to continue their search, where they “found” the bag of 25 heroin pills.

Police are investigating if the officer planted the second set of drugs there or if he was recreating the discovery when his body camera was rolling.  “It’s certainly a possibility that we’re looking into, to see if the officers, in fact, replaced drugs that they had already discovered to document the discovery with their body-worn cameras on,” said Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis.

During a press conference, Davis said that they will look at “what happened, crimes committed, policies or procedures violated” and that he’s “convinced we’re going to get to the bottom of it, if evidence was planted and take assertive action if that’s the case.”  “This is a serious allegation of police misconduct,” Davis added. “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.”

Baltimore Police are not new to scandal.  In 2016, the Justice Department found that officers from the Baltimore Police had planted drugs on a suspect on at least one occasion. In the same year, the police were also forced to settle a lawsuit with a man who accused officers of orchestrating a bogus drug bust at his residence.   They also sparked massive backlash for an incident in April 2015 when a young, black man named Freddie Gray died days after suffering a spinal injury while under police custody.

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