Two Baltimore police officers are on trial this week in federal court for some of this worst misconduct imaginable. Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor were members of Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force, an elite group of plainclothes officers expected to get the worst firearms and offenders off the city streets.
Eight of the nine men on the task force have 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. 6 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: the Gun Trace Task Force 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 firearms and drugs the men had confiscated.
Today, many Baltimore residents consider the task force’s crimes the biggest scandal in recent memory. Freddie Gray’s 2015 death in police custody and the resulting riots dominated years of headlines, but these officers’s misconduct was the low frequency chaos only people in Baltimore’s most vulnerable communities could hear.