A police officer, Richard Pinheiro Jr., was found guilty of tampering with evidence. This means the state can no longer call on Pinheiro Jr. as a witness. Also, prosecutors have dropped all cases that relied on his detective work.
But nonetheless, he remains employed by the Baltimore police department.
In late 2017, Richard Pinheiro Jr. placed drugs in a vacant lot. Then, his body cam footage showed him acting as though he had just discovered them a short while later.
This constitutes tampering with evidence. The court found Pinheiro Jr. guilty of this crime thanks to the incontrovertible nature of body cam footage. However, over two and a half years later, Pinheiro Jr. remains on the force. He also uses his taxpayer-funded paycheck to pay the mortgage, his cellphone bills and his car insurance. How did this happen?
Despite his crimes, Pinheiro Jr. continues working for the department, though only from a desk. He cannot engage in police work outside of filing paperwork while Internal Affairs investigates him.
Richard Pinheiro Jr. insists that the body cam footage is a “reenactment.” He says it’s a recreation of an earlier drug discovery he made when his body cam was turned off.
Reform advocates have pointed to Pinheiro Jr.’s case as evidence that police departments like Baltimore PD are in need of serious changes. But when pressed on why a convicted criminal who tampered with evidence is still on their payroll, Baltimore PD is evasive.
According to them, Pinheiro Jr. is protected by the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. That bill is an outdated piece of legislation. Reform advocates argue that it is just an excuse to keep police from being held responsible for their actions.
Speaking on the controversial case, Baltimore PD has stated that they feel the “eventual outcome will be appropriate.”
David Rocah is the senior staff attorney of Maryland’s ACLU. He stated,
“It perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong with the BPD, everything that is wrong with policing in Maryland, and everything that is wrong with policing in the United States. It’s all wrapped up in a nice little bow for everyone to see, staring us in the face, and yet we continue to do nothing to address the problems.”
Attorney Deborah Levi is the director of the defense office that initially released the damning Pinheiro Jr. body cam footage. She was also scathing in her take on the situation. She said,
“Whether this was an independent BPD decision, or one imposed on them due to legislation and/or the collective bargaining agreement with the union, appropriate accountability measures for serious misconduct are urgently needed and should include termination for this level of established police misconduct.”
Pinheiro Jr.’s attorney, Chaz Ball, stated that the police officer is considering appealing his case to the state’s Supreme Court. He also said they are “reviewing all options going forward.”