It’s been 16 months since a judge found Baltimore police officer Richard Pinheiro Jr guilty of fabricating evidence after the cop recorded himself planting drugs in a vacant lot to justify a man’s arrest.
But not only was the cop spared prison, he continues to receive his full salary from the Baltimore Police Department.
He is protected by the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, after all, which supersedes the U.S. Bill of Rights in many cases – another example of the Blue Privilege bestowed upon cops in this country.
Like all citizens, cops in this country are protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights which provides us with due process protections in the event we are accused of a crime. But the state’s Law Enforcement Officer’ Bill of Rights provides officers with an added layer of protection.
For example, when a mere mortal citizen is accused of murder, he can be detained for days where he will be interrogated for hours until police get the answers they want. Cops are even taught to lie and manipulate to force a confession which many times are coerced and false.
Under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a cop accused of murder can go ten days without giving a statement unless felony charges have already been filed against him which hardly ever happens. And once cops being the interrogation, they are forbidden from lying to him.
The Maryland Law Enforcement Bill of Rights also states that cops convicted of felonies can be fired but if they are convicted on misdemeanors, the department must prove they violated departmental policies before they can be fired.
Pinheiro was convicted on fabricating evidence and official misconduct in November 2018 which are both misdemeanors. Judge Melissa Phinn gave him a three-year suspended sentence meaning he did not going down as yet another Baltimore cop sent to prison.
Since then, he has been working a “desk job” while internal affairs continues to “investigate” whether he violated policies, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Meanwhile, the man he arrested spent six months in jail on drug charges before he was released and his charges dismissed. The man whose name has not been released was arrested in January 2017.
Pinheiro’s body camera shows him placing a bag of white pellets inside a coffee can, then leaving the can in a vacant lot strewn with debris and trash. He and two other cops then walk back onto the street before Pinheiro walks back to the lot and picks up the can, removing the bag as if he just discovered it.
Pinheiro testified that he was not planting drugs but simply recreating the discovery of heroin after realizing he had his body camera turned off when initially discovering the drugs.
The truth is, Pinheiro likely did not realize his body camera had a buffer that captures the 30 seconds of footage prior to the camera being activated. That footage contains no audio but it clearly shows Pinheiro placing the bag in the can and walking back onto the street with the two other cops.
“I’m going to go check here,” he tells the other cops within seconds of turning on the camera and walking back into the lot where he picks up the can and pulls out the bag, walking it back to the other two cops.
Despite Pinheiro’s creative attempts at bullshitting his way out of the case, prosecutors and the judge did not believe his story, according to a November 2018 Baltimore Sun article.
Chaz Ball, Pinheiro’s attorney, argued that Pinheiro had simply forgotten to record his initial discovery out of his eagerness to solve the drug case he was working on, and was “an honest officer who made an honest mistake.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Stacy Ann Llewellyn dismissed Ball’s assessment, arguing that Pinheiro not only made no effort to note the true nature of the re-creation video — while recording it or afterward to his supervisors — but took steps to make the re-created video seem as authentic as possible.
“We’re here because he was not honest about his mistake,” Llewellyn said. Such conduct, she said, is “flatly illegal.”
The case made national news when defense counsel released the body-camera footage in the summer of 2017. Against a backdrop of rampant police misconduct allegations elsewhere in the department, defense counsel alleged that Pinheiro had been caught red-handed planting drugs. The controversy was further stoked with the release of two other body-camera videos, from separate incidents, that defense counsel said raised similar questions about officers’ manipulation of evidence.
But despite his conviction, he is still milking the system even though he used the very same system to destroy the lives of innocent people. Prosecutors have already dropped several of his cases and made it clear they would never call him as a witness again.
But the fact that he remains a cop shows just how godly cops are treated in the system when even if they are proven to be criminals, they still come out on top.
According to the Baltimore Sun:
Police officials said the process for handling officers like Pinheiro is out of their control — determined by the state’s controversial Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. They say the “eventual outcome will be appropriate.”
Calling Pinheiro’s continued paycheck a disgrace, police reform advocates and defense attorneys say the department’s claims about its hands being tied are misleading, and that the state law it’s hiding behind should be dismantled as a legal relic that for too long has allowed officers to avoid accountability.
“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,” said David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland. “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.”
Deborah Levi, director of special litigation for the Baltimore public defender’s office, which initially released the footage, said the retention of Pinheiro after his conviction undermines police efforts to restore trust in the community.
“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,” Levi said.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, the police union that represents rank-and-file officers in Baltimore, has long defended the Officers Bill of Rights as providing critical protections for cops who work under tough conditions.
Last week, a state appeals court affirmed Judge Phinn’s decision that Pinheirro displayed “a willful abuse of his authority for his own personal gain.” His attorney said they are considering appealing to the state supreme court.
Watch the video above and read more on the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights here.