Elite Baltimore police unit robbed with impunity, sold guns and drugs, loaned guns and armor to civilians sent to commit robberies

Detectives Marcus Taylor and Daniel Hersl of Baltimore's elite, seven-member Gun Trace Task Force are on trial for years of robbery, home invasions, drug dealing, gun dealing, and worse -- their defense is that they were not the primary participants in these activities, not that the crimes did not take place.

The officers started off by robbing drug dealers, on the grounds that their victims would be unlikely to complain or be believed. They would do things like steal a suspected dealer's housekeys during a traffic stop, then stage a home invasion and break into his safe, stealing half the contents before turning on their cameras to document the remainder, claiming it was the totality of what they'd seized. They also loaned police-issue body armor and seized guns to third parties and sent them to commit robberies while members of the unit stood guard. They kept BB guns in their cruisers to plant on arrestees, and used GPS tracking devices to locate potential sites for robberies, including at least one robbery of a person not suspected of any crime.

125 cases that relied on evidence gathered by the unit have collapsed so far; the public defender estimates that will rise to at least 3,000.

One incident began with the traffic stop of Oreese Stevenson, a 38-year-old with a long criminal history, in March 2016.

After arresting Mr. Stevenson, the detectives stole his house keys and read his driver’s license to find where he lived. Four of the unit’s officers entered his house and used tools to pry open his safe. They stole $100,000, which was half the money in the safe, along with two kilograms of cocaine, a $4,000 Breitling wristwatch, designer clothes, and other items, according to testimony.

The gun unit’s supervisor, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, then began to film on his mobile phone — a video shown during the trial — that purported to show the detectives opening the safe for the first time and discovering the remaining $100,000.

Sergeant Jenkins then listened to Mr. Stevenson’s phone calls from jail, he told prosecutors, and learned that Mr. Stevenson’s girlfriend was seeking legal help to recover the stolen money.

Sergeant Jenkins wrote a note that purported to be written by a woman who said Mr. Stevenson had gotten her pregnant. He placed the note on the girlfriend’s doorstep, knocked and ran off.

In Baltimore, Brazen Officers Took Every Chance to Rob and Cheat [Timothy Williams/NYT]

(via Naked Capitalism)