The Baltimore, Md. Police Department is no stranger to scandal.
We don’t need to go back much farther than the controversy surrounding Freddie Gray’s death in police custody in 2015, after which the U.S. Justice Department accused officers of routinely targeting African Americans.
There is a new incident now placing Baltimore in the spotlight.
On Monday, a federal jury found officers Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor guilty of racketeering and robbery as part of a wider operation in which officers assigned to the Gun Trace Task force held up drug dealers, conducted illegal searches, and claimed unearned overtime.
Already plead guilty are six other officers, two who testified against Hersl and Taylor.
Witnesses testified officers pushed on neighborhoods garbage bags full of drugs supposedly looted during the city’s 2015 riots (that resulted in Freddie Gray’s police-custody death), sold confiscated drugs and guns, committed armed home invasions, and were instructed to plant BB guns on suspects so they would be armed when police confronted them.
Newly appointed Police Commissioner-Designate Darryl De Sousa said the officers’ indictments and the trial “uncovered some of the most egregious and despicable acts ever perpetrated in law enforcement,” adding the department has now formed a new corruption unit to “focus, specifically, on this case and the allegations that were made, but were not part of the indictment or prosecution.”
De Sousa said:
“Our job moving forward is to earn back the trust and respect of the community.”
The murder rate for the city hit a record last year, and the police department is under federal watch for unconstitutional street stops.
Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund president, said the trial exposed Baltimore’s inability to root out corruption occurring over nearly a decade, and “affirmed the gross misconduct that communities have complained of for years” but weren’t believed.
“It shouldn’t take federal investigations to recognize and trust the community.”
Image credit: Lee Herald