In April 2016, a 13-year-old boy was shot by officers of the Baltimore Police Department. The boy ran when faced with the police, so they gave chase. During the chase, the police spotted the boy holding a gun, and when he turned, they shot the teenager. The youngster wasn’t critically injured, and it seemed like an open-and-shut case of a justifiable use of force.
Now people are wondering.
The Baltimore Police Department is currently in court over one of the biggest scandals in the history of American law enforcement. The corruption case is replete with intrigue as police reveal secrets that sound like something out of an urban-fiction novel or a lost season of The Wire. It has revealed how one of America’s largest cities just happened to be filled with crooked cops, but no one seems to be talking about it outside of Baltimore.
According to the Baltimore Sun, it started when a 19-year-old woman from New Jersey overdosed in 2011 and authorities began tracing the origin of the drugs. It led them to a Baltimore drug crew and the discovery that a Baltimore police officer was involved. By the time they finished investigating, eight members of the elite Gun Trace Task Force had been charged with crimes ranging from racketeering to robbery.
You want robbery? How about the story of the corrupt squad stopping a drug dealer during a traffic stop and robbing him of $6,500, then going to the man’s home without a warrant and taking another $100,000 out of a safe? Sgt. Wayne Jenkins would ask suspected drug dealers, “If you could put together a crew of guys and rob the biggest drug dealer in town, who would it be?”
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If you’re interested in police targeting regular citizens, maybe you should read about how the Maurice Ward had a technique of driving fast at groups of people, slamming on the brakes and chasing whoever ran. Perhaps you hear how Jenkins believed that all young men with backpacks were dope boys. Or people who drove Honda Accords with tinted windows.
And then there’s the revelation that the supervisor of the unit instructed officers to carry a toy gun just in case they found themselves “in a jam” and needed to plant one. When one of the officers, Marcus Tayor, was arrested, officials couldn’t figure out why he had a toy gun in his glove compartment.
These revelations aren’t speculation. Six of the eight indicted officers have agreed to cooperate with federal law enforcement agents and are testifying in open court. One of the officers won’t get to testify because he was mysteriously shot in the head with his own weapon the day before he was set to testify.
I know what you’re thinking: After the death of Freddie Gray and the discovery of multiple officers who planted drugs on suspects, the Baltimore Police Department is one of the most corrupt departments in the country.
Or maybe Baltimore is indicative of police departments all over the country. Maybe they’re like the one in Cleveland, which hired the cop who killed Tamir Rice after he was fired by another police department. Or like the South Carolina state trooper who said he shot a man because he was moving erratically while reaching for his wallet. Or when a paid police informant planted cocaine in a store owner’s shop.
It is not just Baltimore cops. It is cops. They will shoot you in the face in front of your infant daughter. They will choke you to sleep for selling cigarettes. They will shoot you in the back for walking away. And they will get away with it so often that we are shocked when they are indicted.
That’s the real story.
Top Photo | Members of the Baltimore Police Department stand guard outside the department’s Western District police station during a protest in response to Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore. (AP/Patrick Semansky)
Michael Harriot is a staff writer at The Root, host of “The Black One” podcast and editor-in-chief of the digital magazine NegusWhoRead. He always has the big joker and the double five.
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