A Baltimore Police officer who was caught by body-camera footage planting drugs and then acting as if he just found them is still working and collecting a paycheck 2 ½ years after the incident.
Officer Richard Pinheiro Jr. was convicted of fabricating evidence and misconduct in office. His conviction was upheld last week in a state appeals court. As a result of the charges, prosecutors have dropped any cases that relied on Pinheiro’s police work, saying they’d never call him as a witness again.
Despite all that, Pinheiro still remains active on the police force. He is currently working a desk job as internal affairs continue their own investigation into whether he broke department policies when he broke the law.
Police officials say the process of handling officers like Pinheiro is not in their control but instead is determined by the state’s controversial Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. They say the “eventual outcome will be appropriate.”
Police reform advocates and defense attorneys feel the fact that Pinheiro has continued to be employed and receive a check for the last 2 ½ years is a disgrace. Saying the department’s claims that its hands are tied are misleading, and that the state law it’s hiding behind should be dismantled.
“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.
Pinheiro, who was hired in 2011 and took home about $55,500 in fiscal 2019, according to city records.