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by Peter Moskos

January 23, 2018

Cops and Robbers in Baltimore

Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun has tweeted a crazy account of testimony in today's trial of corrupt Baltimore cops.
Crazy testimony in federal court just now by former Detective Maurice Ward, outlining illegal tactics used by Gun Trace Task Force Officers ...

They’d regularly drive fast at a larger group of people, slam brakes and pop their doors to see who ran, then detain and search them. They had no reason other than trying to provoke someone. 10-20 times on slow nights, as many as 50 times others, he said.

Ward said Sgt Jenkins profiled vehicles - “dope boy cars” such as Honda Accords, Acuras, Honda Odysseys - for car stops and would falsely claim he saw people not wearing seat belts or their windows were too darkly tinted.

Jenkins also had a thing about men over age of 18 carrying a book bag - probably drugs, he guessed, so they would stop them, Ward said.

More outrageous testimony from Det Ward: they kept BB guns on hand in case they hit someone or got into a shootout and needed to plant it on someone.

When they stopped someone suspected of being in the drug game, Jenkins would ask, “If you could put your own crew together and rob the biggest drug dealer you know of, who would it be?” And then they’d go after the person they named, to rob them.

Prosecutors dumped out a giant black bag, like a hockey equipment bag, onto the floor that apparently belonged to Jenkins that had masks, black clothes, shoes, and tools such as a rope with a grappling hook.

One of the craziest stories involved a man who they stole $100,000 from. Ward says Jenkins listened to the man's jail calls after he was arrested, and heard him talking about the officers stealing money from him. /1

The man said he was going to hire a good lawyer and try to go after them. Jenkins learned that the man's wife was handling things for him on the outside, and he wanted to extract her so he'd have to hire a public defender and plead out, Ward said /2

So on one of the calls, Jenkins heard the man talking to another woman. Jenkins, Ward said, had an officer with good handwriting write up a note purporting to be from the other woman saying she was pregnant, and dropped it in the wife's front door /3

This is just the first of four officers who will testify during this trial, and he hasn’t even been cross-examined yet.
The story in the Sun.

This scandal is big. And it starts just as a new commissioner takes over the BPD. And that transition, from Davis to De Sousa, is just about the first good bit of policing news coming from Charm City in three years. Davis, you may remember, took over from Batts in 2015. Batts was the so called "progressive" who led the department into a riot and saw murder nearly double overnight in May, 2015. But rumor has it that Batts, to his credit, wouldn't go along with the futile (and failed) criminal prosecution of the six cops involved in the arrest and subsequent death in police custody of Freddie Gray. Davis, they say, got the job in part because he had so such qualms.

I don't know De Sousa, but I've only heard good things. At least now the possibility of change for the better.

I still can't get over the fact that the DOJ was investigating the Baltimore Police Department at the same time that all this was going on. What did they find? Poorly filled out "statements of probable cause," a few petty gray-area scandals from a decade ago, and, get this, black cops in Baltimore use the "n word." And yet they were totally clueless about all this happening under their nose. But we can't blame the investigators because, well, we don't know who they were since the report was anonymous and with the only the vaguest of "methods" section. But then the purpose of the DOJ report was not to find the truth, but rather show problem to legally trigger a consent decree.

Speaking of which... Keven Rector reports in the Sun:
The two highest-ranking Baltimore police officials in charge of instituting reforms, overhauling policies and ensuring compliance with the city’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice have both resigned following Mayor Catherine Pugh’s firing of Police Commissioner Kevin Davis last week.
Well, there you have it.

2 comments:

Otis Blue said...

I don't really have words to describe the anger I have when hearing about cops doing the things these guys are reported to have done. It is certainly going to put a wrinkle in my dinner party scoffing at Training Day being absurdism in modern day policing.

That said, the fact that the DOJ didn't discover any of this is ridiculous. Were they so focused on finding racial bias that they truly missed it? Did they find it and choose to squash the info because it was not what they were looking for? Did they find it and quietly send it over to their criminal division for further investigation? I think the civil rights division of DOJ needs to be investigated and if the answer here is anything other than the latter, they should be barred from further consent decree investigations until they get themselves fixed.

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