Charm City is looking more like Corruption City every day. Two Baltimore police detectives were convicted on charges of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and robbery on February 13, and they’re joining six colleagues who previously plead guilty.
That’s in addition to a deputy commissioner who decided it was time to retire when his name came up during trial testimony and a head of internal affairs who was transferred for a similar reason. There’s another nickname for Baltimore that’s apropos - Mobtown – but Police Mobtown is a better modern moniker.
The two convicted detectives, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, each face up to 60 years in prison. They were acquitted of another charge, that of “possessing a firearm in pursuance of a violent crime.” They are cops, they carry guns – but they aren’t supposed to use them to rob people.
The Corruption in Baltimore
The convictions and guilty pleas all involve members of the police department’s Gun Trace Task Force, a division once considered elite.
The corruption included stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, guns, drugs and big-ticket items while the officers were supposedly seizing these items for actual law enforcement reasons. Homes were searched – and goods stolen – without warrants.
They’d search a suspect for any purpose they made up. The taxpayers footed the bill when these uniform-clad criminals lied about overtime, in some cases doubling their annual salaries. When they were supposedly hard at work earning lavish overtime, they were actually drinking at bars or even on vacation.
The good news is that the blue uniforms are being traded for orange ones and years of “overtime” in prison. Just one member of the task force was not charged and still remains on the Baltimore police force. The Gun Trace Task Force, however, is no more. Any legitimate work the task force did is now irretrievably tainted.
Jurors got to hear the details of these transactions, thanks to FBI wiretaps.
Officers talked about divvying up their loot, changing timesheets to hide involvement in a car crash in which police found the driver unconscious, and putting together stories to justify all that overtime.
The task force’s sergeant, Wayne Jenkins, was heard on the tape telling fellow officers to pretend he was a federal prosecutor to scare a drug dealer – whom they robbed.
The Gun Trace Task Force
So, how did a unit charged with removing illegal guns from the streets of Baltimore end up becoming a criminal enterprise?
Originally, the task force was designed to go after gun traffickers and straw purchasers. The latter refers to people with a clean record who buy guns that are then sold to those who couldn’t pass background checks. That involved a lot of paperwork and tracking to the original point of sale.
The task force soon turned to taking guns right off the street. From there, they branched out into intimidating and robbing drug dealers of their money and goods and selling the stolen drugs. Jenkins even kept burglary tools in his squad car, including sledgehammers and crowbars.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Unfortunately, the activities of the Gun Trace Task Force squad are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Baltimore police corruption.
During the same time period this group was out robbing the locals, the Justice Department was already investigating the Baltimore Police Department for violating the constitutional rights of residents, especially those of minority groups. This investigation ended with a consent decree requiring the use of police body cameras and additional training.
The department is now under judicial and community oversight. However, the consent decree was issued during the Obama administration, and current Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has ordered a review of consent decrees and has been vocal about their effectiveness.
Meanwhile, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Acting Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa have referred to the members of the Gun Trace Task Force as a “few bad apples” in the police department.
It sounds more like something has blighted most of the orchard.
If you or a loved one are a victim of Baltimore PD brutality or misconduct, give us a call and learn how a federal civil rights lawsuit or other remedy can expose bad cops and get financial compensation for your loss. For a no-cost legal call 866.836.4684 or Connect Online