Public Defender: Body Camera Shows Cop Planting Drugs
While charges were dropped against the suspect, former Baltimore cops say the case should highlight the need to end prohibition
Stephen Janis: This is Stephen Janis reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland. Another cop under suspicion. This time a video showing him planting drugs.
Deborah Levi : What we see on the video, if you slow down in the first five seconds, an officer appearing to place a red can under some garbage. Then, all three officers who are in the video walk away. They turn the body camera on. As you can see, when a body camera is activated it sort of bounces back 30 seconds without audio.
Richard Pinheiro: I’m going to go check here.
Deborah Levi : It then picks up the officers on the sidewalk saying they’re going to go look in that same space where it appears he may have placed the can, and then you can hear his two colleagues laughing, and then the officer walks down the alley, digs through the trash where the red can appears to have just been placed, and he retrieves it.
Richard Pinheiro: Yo.
Stephen Janis: As part of our story, we caught up with the Public Defender who released the video to the public.
Deborah Levi : Well, it was Mr. Curran’s client, who was a colleague of mine at the office of the Public Defender. It was Mr. Kern who caught this suspected misconduct on the video and alerted the State’s Attorney’s Office to it. Then, that case after Mr. Curran brought it to the attention of the State’s Attorney’s Office, that case was dismissed. Mr. Curran received indication from the State’s Attorney’s Office that something would be done about it. The following week, the State’s Attorney’s Office prosecuted another case with Officer Pinheiro where no disclosure was made about the video to the defense attorney and nothing had been done.
Stephen Janis: Well, this speaks to an issue that you’ve been fighting for which is disclosure of officers disciplinary records and other information during the trial. Do you think this is another important point of making sure that that happens?
Deborah Levi : Our expectation is that when something comes to light, that swift action is taken both by the State’s Attorney’s Office and by the Baltimore Police Department. In our opinion, if the cases are being prosecuted the following week without any action and without any disclosure, we don’t think that was swift enough. We’re hoping that everybody rises to the occasion and continues to take these matters as seriously as the Office of the Public Defender does.
Stephen Janis: Does the Baltimore Police Department have any credibility in your mind as it represents people who are being charged?
Deborah Levi : I have great faith in Commissioner Davis and his deputies, that they are working very hard to turn around a culture that has been allowed to persist for a long time. We are very hopeful that Commissioner Davis will continue to do his job and somehow find a way to focus on the good officers while getting rid of the officers who are not up to the standards for the people of Baltimore City.
Stephen Janis: The story appears to be another example the flawed war on drugs. To understand what it means, we spoke to two former Baltimore City police officers who have been critical of it.
Michael Wood: We have no empathy. We run around and we treat everybody like they’re an enemy combatant. You’re going to go out there and you’re going to fight crime. Right? Well, if you’re fighting, you have to have somebody to fight. What would even happen if there was no crime? What would a cop do? What they do we’ve been shown is invent it.
Neill Franklin: Let’s take a page out of history and learn from that. We’ve experienced the same things from back then. The drive-by shootings, the running gun battles, the corruption. Bad booze was flowing through the streets back then. Now we go bad drugs flowing through the streets today. At every turn, conditions have gotten worse under these problems of prohibition. Everything that we’re seeing happening from homicides to corruption to the overdose deaths, it’s all occurring under these problems and policies of prohibition. That’s what we need to change. If we’re really concerned about our young people in the city, understand this. It has been our criminal justice system that has been more detrimental to our families, mainly in the black community than any other policy centered around or surrounding the war on drugs. These numbers, I’ll leave you with these. One in 57 according to the NAACP, that’s the number of white children have a parent or parents under the control of the criminal justice system. For our black kids, that number is one in nine. One in nine. We’re not going to be able to successfully raise our young black children until we balance that out.