Ever since Freddie Gray’s death in 2015, the Baltimore police department has been caught in the national crosshairs of Black American’s scrutiny. And now, perhaps our fears of widespread corruption will finally be validated as the department finds itself in the center of one of the most serious and largest court cases against law enforcement in U.S. history.
According to the Baltimore Sun, this current U.S. District Court case started with the drug overdose of a 19-year-old woman from New Jersey back in 2011. When authorities caught wind of the young woman’s death, they launched an investigation into who supplied the teen with the drugs. Over time, they realized that it was a drug crew that just happened to be linked to a Baltimore police officer.
From there, the investigation grew and they later discovered that this was bigger than just one police officer. This climbed so far up the ladder that it reached one of the department’s most prestigious and elite groups: The Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force.
Since that alarming discovery, eight members of that task force are currently facing federal indictments for the following: Racketeering, executing searches without warrants, invading private homes, robbing suspects and innocent citizens of cash and reselling drugs on the street.
One of the most jarring details to come out in court since the trial started on Monday was that police officers were encouraged by their supervisor to carry on them toy guns in case they found themselves in an unsavory situation.
Under oath, one officer, Detective Maurice Ward said he was told by Sgt. Wayne Jenkins that the reasoning for this was because “[having them just] in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.”
Currently, six Baltimore officers have pleaded guilty to their charges, while four of them are actively working with the government. The other two, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, have pled not guilty. They will go to trial in the near future, as they are facing charges of racketeering conspiracy, robbery, and possession of a firearm in a crime of violence.
The Sun points out that this isn’t the first time that BPD officers have been charged with corruption, but this is the most serious of the department’s history.
“These officers are 1930s-style gangsters,” Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said last year of these men’s crimes. “They betrayed the trust we’re trying to build with our community at a very sensitive time in our history.”
Of course, Black Twitter had plenty to say about these developments, noting that this type of corruption isn’t happening in a vacuum. Baltimore is a mere microcosm of a widespread epidemic that impacts many cities across the country, especially those with large Black populations.
Meanwhile, local activist are clear: This news is not shocking by any means.
Christopher Ervin, the founder of the re-entry group The Lazarus Rite, recently told the Sun that the Gun Trace Task Force allegations are “shocking for people who don’t live in those communities.”
“In the Black community, this is not shocking at all. You get a chorus of, ‘We’ve been saying that.’”
It’s believed that this trial will continue for the next three weeks.
This is a developing story and we will provide updates as they become available.