In Baltimore, of course, wholesomeness capital of the US. Officer Richard Pinheiro thought his body camera was off when he had tossed the baggie into a debris pile. But what he didn’t know is that the cameras have a pre-record cycle that continuously records and saves the data with a retroactive 30 second timer. There’s no audio during the first 30 seconds of the pre-record, but you can clearly see Officer Pinheiro toss the baggie into the pile, walk to the sidewalk to turn on his body camera, then stumble into the debris pile, poke around, then miraculously find a baggie of heroin which he was pinning on a suspect.
The two complicit officers are Hovhannes Simonyan and Jamal Brunson. They observe this action and do nothing, say nothing.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis says “It’s certainly a possibility that we’re looking into, to see if the officers in fact replaced drugs that they had already discovered in order to document their discovery with their body-worn cameras on,” he said.
The public defender’s office flagged the video for prosecutors last week, prompting prosecutors to drop the heroin possession charge against the man arrested.
The man, unable to post $50,000 bail, had been in jail since January, according to attorney Deborah Levi, who is leading a new effort to track police misconduct cases for the public defender’s office.
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the local police union that represents rank-and-file officers, urged people not to “jump to conclusions.”
“Everyone needs to take a deep breath, take a step back, and let the investigation run its course,” he said. “First impression, it doesn’t look good. But that’s not the complete investigation. There’s going to be a lot more done to get to the bottom of what really happened.”
The public defender’s office said the state’s attorney’s office needs to do more in response to the discovery of the video. It said in a statement that the officer seen handling the plastic bag in the video is a witness in 53 other active cases. The other two officers in the video also are listed as witnesses in pending cases, the office said.
David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland, said that even “a faked recreation of officers finding the untied bag of drugs” would still be “potentially criminal” and should be a violation of police rules.
Rocah criticized the state’s attorney’s office for “the total lack of any apparent systemic response” to the incident, including putting the officer on the stand in another case after the video was flagged.
Rocah said it was “insane” that state laws that bar the disclosure of disciplinary records for police officers would prevent the public from seeing the results of the Police Department’s investigation or knowing how it punished the officers internally.
Rocah also said “there is zero reason to trust any video or any statement from any of these officers” given what was clearly observable in the video flagged by the public defender’s office.
“So even if it is indeed true that they simply staged a re-creation of finding the drugs, these officers have not only destroyed their own credibility, they have single-handedly destroyed the credibility of every piece of video where BPD officers find contraband without a clear lead-in that negates the possibility of it being staged,” Rocah said. “That’s quite a day’s work.”
Six months of a man’s life, taken away thanks to this shady behavior.
The Baltimore Sun also reports that city records indicate Officer Pinheiro made $67,570 of taxpayer money in 2016.