Public defender claims body-cam footage shows Baltimore police officer planting drugs

BPD launches internal investigation
Posted at 2:11 PM, Jul 19, 2017

UPDATE: State's Attorneys Office responds to body camera footage

Body camera footage released by Baltimore’s Office of the Public Defender apparently shows a Baltimore city police officer planting drugs in a criminal arrest.

The footage shows three officers, one of whom ‘hides’ and finds’ drugs, as the other two officers look on according to a statement released by the Office of the Public Defender.

“A public defender was preparing for trial. He received the body camera footage in the course of discovery and he reviewed when he first came in, I think in March or April,” Debbie Levi, an attorney with the Office of the Public Defender, said. “He didn’t quite catch it, and then upon closer inspection in preparation for trial he realized it.”

RELATED: Case charged by indicted Baltimore Police officers dismissed

According to the statement, the prosecutor claimed to be “appalled” by the video and dropped the charges in that case, but no clear policy has been taken in other cases involving these officers.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis says a body-worn camera footage purportedly showing an officer planting drugs an officer planting drugs minutes after a criminal arrest is a serious allegation of police misconduct. 

By itself, it's disturbing -- the footage showing a Baltimore police officer hiding what appears to be a baggie of capsules inside a can. 

RELATED: New body camera footage not sitting well with Baltimore residents

Then moments later, he seemingly discovered drugs.

"Perception is reality. So if our community thinks there are police officers who are planting evidence during the course of duty, that's certainly something that will keep me up at night," Davis said. 

So Davis wanted to show the moments leading up to this incident that happened in January. 

In the footage, you can see and hear officers confronting a man minutes after a drug transaction. Officers then arrested who's believed to be the seller.

“…to let that initial video that was released by the public defender’s office stand all by its lonesome, I think doesn’t paint as clear a picture that we would like to offer to the community right now," Davis said. 

Moments later, a search in the area where the transaction happened.

Officers found a baggie inside a chip bag containing capsules of heroin.

Then, the camera goes off. 

Minutes later --- on again, to what's now a 'viral' video of the officer's body-worn camera. 

“People’s liberty is at stake and every witness’ credibility is fair game," Public Defender Debbie Katz Levi said. 

She says the initial video alone is alarming. 

The state was forced to drop the case against the suspect in question. 

Commissioner Davis says the department is investigating the incident, but it says if something criminal did happen with officers, it's setting a bad precedent. 

“I saw video footage of officers apparently placing evidence and recovering evidence, that’s initially — based on what I saw, very narrowly inconsistent with the way police officers do business," Davis said. 

Baltimore Police have not come to any conclusion from the video, still the officer who was wearing the body camera, who's been identified as Officer Richard Pinheiro by the Office of the Public Defender, has been suspended of his police powers.