For the second time in the last several weeks, defense attorneys in Baltimore are alleging that body camera footage shows officers planting drugs on defendants.
A lawyer on Tuesday said the newest video shows officers engaging “in what appears to be a staged recovery of narcotics,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
Josh Insley’s client, 35-year-old Shamere Collins, was arrested in November when officers observed what they believed to be a drug deal happening in her car. When they pulled her over, officers said they smelled marijuana before searching the vehicle. They found a baggy with marijuana and heroin, and Collins and her passenger were charged.
“Those drugs were not in that car when we were pulled out,” Collins said in a statement. “The state dismissed the case against me and my attorneys are reviewing the tapes to see what steps to take next.”
Collins was represented by a public defender in the criminal case, and the defender’s office released the series of body camera videos. The office said the time-stamped footage shows one officer thoroughly searching the vehicle and coming up with nothing on the driver’s side. Then, the officers turn their body cameras on and off. When they come back on, another officer searches the same spot in the vehicle a half hour after the first officer did, and almost immediately comes up with a black baggy, allegedly full of drugs.
The officers involved have not been named, and the police union has warned about a rush to judgment. But the allegations from Collins and her lawyer come just days after prosecutors announced they were dismissing 34 gun and drug charges that rely on testimony from three officers involved in another case involving alleged evidence planting.
Officer Richard Pinheiro can be seen placing a soup can full of white capsules among other garbage in his body camera footage. Then he walks into an alley, activates his body camera, and retrieves the soup can. Body cameras record the first 30 seconds of video before they’re engaged, but have no audio. The heroin possession charge against the person arrested has been dropped in that case, and Officer Pinheiro has been suspended while the department conducts an internal investigation.
On Tuesday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis sent a memo to officers.
“In light of recent events, you are reminded to activate your body worn camera at the initiation of a call for service or other activity that is investigative or enforcement-related (e.g., crime scene, car stop, or pedestrian stop),” Davis wrote in the memo. “If you are on-scene where a search for evidence or property inventory is being conducted, your body worn camera shall remain activated until you leave the scene so as to capture all of the circumstances surrounding the recovery of evidence.”
“In the event your body worn camera is not activated during the recovery of evidence, under no circumstances shall you attempt to recreate the recovery of evidence after re-activating your body worn camera,” he said.
The allegations come during a tumultuous time for the Baltimore Police Department. As many as 205 people have been killed in the city so far this year, and the police department is in the early stages of a federal consent decree that took effect in April — implemented after an Obama-era Justice Department investigation found “a pattern and practice of conduct” by the department that violates the Constitution.