When Baltimore area detectives found an unauthorized magnetic GPS tracker attached to a suspect’s Jeep, the discovery unraveled a web of nefarious police activity.
For the BBC, Jessica Lussenhop reconstructs the events to narrate how Baltimore’s celebrated Gun Trace Task Force entered houses without warrants to steal cash and jewelry, planted evidence, resold confiscated drugs and framed the innocent. Praised for confiscating guns and making arrests, many of the Task Force’s cases got dropped because the team violated citizens’ constitutional rights. When they finally got charged for their criminal activity, many innocent people were protected from retaliation, but there was no denying that the same system that always seemed to fail the citizens of Baltimore had failed them once again. This was an especially egregious violation after the 2015 death of 25-year old Freddie Gray while in police custody. As one victim said of the trial, “It ain’t over. It’s just begun. …It’s way far bigger than people think.”
Bates says he noticed a pattern. Jenkins liked to arrest people on the street and find a way to go back to their houses. Once they got into the house, his clients ─ who were overwhelmingly young black men ─ kept telling him the officers stole money, drugs, jewelry. Because they were charged with crimes, the victims were ignored when they complained.
After the GTTF robbed Shawn Whiting of $16,000 in cash, spiriting away two pairs of high-end shoes and video games for his children, he wrote multiple letters of complaint from his prison cell. Internal Affairs told him he lacked sufficient evidence.
“This is what I’ve been saying since 2014,” says Whiting, who was able to withdraw his guilty plea and leave prison after the officers were indicted. “What you do in the dark come to light sometimes.”