Trevor Noah drew some strong conclusions from the Baltimore Police Department’s two recent body cam footage snafus that allegedly showed officers manipulating evidence.
For about six minutes last night, the host of the left-of-center “Daily Show” on Comedy Central ripped on the department for its pair of headline-making videos of drug arrests that bubbled to the surface in the last two weeks.
In case you need a refresher, the first set of footage appears to show Officer Richard Pinheiro in January stuffing a bag of heroin capsules into an empty soup can in a messy backyard, then “finding” it in front of two of his colleagues. The second video, revealed by public defenders on Monday and later released by private defense attorney Josh Insley, appears to show officers in November 2016 failing to find drug contraband during a traffic stop, and then – after switching their cameras off and on again – meandering a bit before (once again) “finding” heroin capsules and weed in a front seat compartment.
Commenting on the air about a report from Fox45’s Joy Lepola that narrated the January footage, Noah says he was unimpressed by what he saw up as bad acting by Pinheiro.
“You know what, Baltimore Police? I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed,” the comedian says. “It’s one thing to apparently plant evidence; it’s another to miss a golden opportunity to look like a super sleuth.”
He presses further, suggesting what Pinheiro should have done: “You do that thing where you walk away and you stop and go, ‘Oh! Something doesn’t add up. Is that a can of black olives? The pits of olives are like rocks; rocks, street name for crack – I got it!’ And then you find the drugs.”
After airing the footage from November, reported on by CBS News’ national desk two days ago, Noah sarcastically suggests a nefarious trend by city police.
“I’m starting to wonder if the entire drug business in Baltimore is just cops buying drugs to plant them,” he says.
Amid the fallout, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has defended his department, describing the issues resulting from the videos as “growing pains,” suggesting that the officers may have been “reenacting” evidence discovery (still not allowed, he noted) and arguing both arrests were valid because other evidence was allegedly discovered during the investigations.
Davis acknowledged why the videos have drummed up tremendous skepticism from the public about his department, which is already under court order to repair its pattern of making unconstitutional stops and seizures, among many other issues. However, he tried to dispel what many fear to be true: that his officers planted evidence to arrest the three total suspects.
“While it’s ugly, and while I’m disappointed that officers in these two incidents recently did not have their cameras on, I think it’s irresponsible to jump to a conclusion that the police officers were engaged in criminal misconduct,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday. “That’s a heavy allegation to make.”
The department has suspended Pinheiro and placed two officers on administrative leave, and has launched internal affairs investigations into both sets of videos. Two of the seven officers tied to the November footage were referred to the Internal Affairs Division, said police spokesman T.J. Smith.
Prosecutors dropped about three dozen cases as a result of the January footage. The Office of the Public Defender, which represented the defendant in the January case and one of the two defendants in the November case, has asserted the videos clearly show the officers planted or manipulated evidence.