Two Baltimore police officers are on trial this week in federal court for some of the worst misconduct imaginable — even for a department plagued by misconduct.
Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor were members of Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force, an elite group of plainclothes officers tasked with getting the worst firearms and offenders off the city streets.
But eight of the nine men on the task force have since been accused of a range of organized crime-level charges that range from robbery and extortion, to faking evidence, planting drugs, dealing drugs, and other serious crimes. Six of the officers, Sergeants Thomas Allers and Wayne Jenkins, and Detectives Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Maurice Ward, and Jemell Rayam, have all pleaded guilty.
It’s a staggering fall for the Gun Trace Task Force, which was created by the city in 2007 with the explicit goal of fighting crime and reducing the city’s rising murder rate. For a while, city leaders saw the task force as a huge success, celebrating the number of firearms and drugs the men had confiscated. But today, many Baltimore residents consider the task force’s crimes the biggest scandal in recent memory.
Despite Freddie Gray’s 2015 death in police custody, and the resulting riots that dominated years of headlines, the misconduct seen here was a low frequency chaos people in Baltimore’s most vulnerable communities couldn't miss.
In the following bonus clip, Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton speaks with VICE News about the cultures that allow for police corruption and how Baltimore might heal.
This segment originally aired Jan. 26, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.