Photo via WOTS Baltimore/Flickr (CC-BY)
Hundreds more are under investigation.
Officers at the Baltimore Police Department are recording questionable body camera footage, the Baltimore Sun reports, leading prosecutors to drop over 100 criminal cases and review over 300 more.
News first broke in July after prosecutors revealed a video in which Officer Richard Pinheiro allegedly hid a bag of supposed drugs in a backyard, turned his body camera on, and acted as if he stumbled across drugs. That incident led to 68 cases that relied on the testimony of Pinheiro and two more officers being dropped and 133 more reviewed. Pinheiro was later suspended pending further investigation by police, and two officers observing the scene were relocated to administrative duty.
Shortly after, a second set of videos allegedly revealed three officers investigating a car, coming across no illegal substances, then turning on their body cameras and finding drugs in the car they just investigated. One covert officer, Glenn Peters, alleges that officers discovered illegal drugs in the vehicle’s steering column, leading officers to turn their cameras back on. But those videos led to 44 criminal cases being postponed and 170 reviewed.
Now, a third body camera video calls several dozen more cases into question after it was revealed that the officer responsible for the footage “self-reported” an incident as a “reenactment of the seizure of evidence,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office told the Baltimore Sun. 43 cases have since been dropped after the incident came to light, and the police department has released a memo warning officers not to reenact situations for their body cameras.
The allegedly staged body camera incidents only further shake the public’s trust in Baltimore police, with many fearing that officers are planting drugs on innocent citizens’ property. As the Root’s Michael Harriot points out, “thousands of people” might be in jail on “trumped-up charges” if officers are faking crimes on their body cameras.
Harriot also suggests that Baltimore police may feel internal pressure to make stops and arrests, which could lead to officers reenacting incidents. But for now, the context around each officer’s actions remains unclear as investigators continue reviewing all three incidents.