Body cameras are finally starting to work as they’re meant to and exposing violations and illegal actions committed by police officers. The latest example comes from Baltimore where a police officer appears to have unknowingly recorded himself planting drugs before making an arrest.
Officer Richard Pinheiro is under investigation after the public defender’s office got a hold of the January 2017 footage on the eve of the trial for the defendant. The state’s attorney’s office then “took immediate and appropriate actions by dropping the case and alerting his supervisor,” according to Buzzfeed News.
“I’m going to check here,” Pinheiro can be heard saying to two other officers before heading back into an alley. He then finds the drugs he planted himself and then calls out to the other two.
The incident was caught on tape likely because of a mistake made by Pinheiro. The way the cameras are set up allows them to record footage starting 30 seconds before their activation, although there’s no audio during this time. So, it appears that Pinheiro either forgot about this 30-second backlog or just didn’t know about it.
“We take allegations like this very seriously and that’s why we launched an internal investigation into the accusations,” said Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith. “We are fortunate to have body-worn cameras which provide a perspective of the event.”
But something is clearly missing in this attempt at police accountability. If Pinheiro so effortlessly committed this crime while he thought his camera wasn’t recording, whose to say other officers aren’t doing the same when their cameras are actually off?
“Officer misconduct has been a pervasive issue at the Baltimore Police Department, which is exacerbated by the lack of accountability.” Levi said. “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.”
Pinheiro has served as a witness in as many as 53 current cases and all of them, and any the other two officers worked, are being reviewed.