Seven Baltimore police officers were indicted Wednesday on federal racketeering charges, as well as charges of fraud and extortion.
The officers — who reportedly served in an elite gun investigation unit — stand accused of crimes like claiming overtime while they were actually hanging out in a casino, robbing a citizen of money and drugs during a traffic stop, and stealing thousands of dollars from a suspected trap house, according to reports by NBC and The Baltimore Sun.
One officer was even charged with conspiring to sell heroin.
“These officers are 1930s-style gangsters, as far as I’m concerned,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.
“The defendants schemed to steal money, property, and narcotics, by detaining victims, entering residences, conducting traffic stops, and swearing our false search warrant affidavits,” Maryland’s Justice Department said in a statement. “Defendants allegedly prepared and submitted false official incident and arrest reports” that “concealed the fact that the officers had stolen money, property, and narcotics from individuals.”
The indictment also says the officers routinely turned off their body cameras “to avoid recording encounters with civilians.”
Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police president Gene Ryan wrote in a statement that he was “very disturbed” by the charges brought against the seven officers, who are union members, and stressed that they were entitled to “due process and a fair trial.”
The alleged crimes were committed while the Justice Department was conducting an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department amid allegations that its officers routinely engaged in civil rights violations. The damning report, released by the DOJ last August, identified racial bias at “every stage” of policing. In January, the city of Baltimore entered into a consent decree with the DOJ, legally binding the Maryland metropolis to implement the recommended reforms in the report.
In a separate indictment, another six officers were accused of participating in a drug trafficking scheme (including one of the defendants in the racketeering case) and were charged with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin.
The probes into the corrupt and criminal activities were reportedly part of a larger effort to clean up the police department. “Reform isn’t always pretty,” Davis said. “It’s messy sometimes.”