Members of the GTTF, pictured above
Baltimore, dubbed the deadliest city in the country, is struggling to rid itself of the negative conceptions associated with its residents and law enforcement. But ameliorating the tension between the city’s residents and the police has proved difficult for a number of reasons, most of which pertain to systemic oppression via racial biases in policing, and the crumbling infrastructure fin the city’s lower income communities. Following the murder of Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department, the tensions between law enforcement and the people they swore to protect flared – a citywide curfew was imposed, state troopers were brought in, and Governor Hogan declared a state of emergency.
Since Freddie Gray’s death, little has happened to reduce the racist and violent tactics of Baltimore policing. In fact, the Baltimore Police Department has demonstrated in recent months just how malignant its intentions are – Maryland’s Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, has labeled the BPD as taking part in a “criminal conspiracy.”
Mr. Rosenstein is referring to Baltimore’s “elite” – and now, defunct – Gun Trace Task Force. Back in 2016, the United States Department of Justice stated that the Baltimore Police Department was “riddled with racially disparate impact ‘at every stage of [its] enforcement actions’” and that these practices have “erode[d] the community trust that is critical to effective policing.”
Some examples of the Gun Trace Task Force’s actions include (as reported by Vox): driving fast at groups of people, and abruptly slamming on the breaks, with the intention of frightening the people into running in different directions; this would give the police a reason to pursue a chase and search. On any given night, this happened between ten and fifty times. The Task Force would also utilize illegal GPS trackers to pursue robbery suspects , and steal large amounts of cash from the homes of suspects and manipulate footage to show that the theft had not occurred. The nine-person task force is accused of confiscating at least $300,000 in cash, three kilograms of cocaine, 43 pounds of marijuana, and 800 grams of heroin for personal use. The members of the task force also admitted to carrying BB guns to plant by the individuals that they accidentally shot.
The list of criminal policing methods continues beyond these actions. The BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force has been deemed unconstitutional and illegal. Eight of the nine officers in the unit have been charged with racketeering, robbing people, extorting drug dealers, and filing false reports; six of them plead guilty. The other two were convicted of the aforementioned charges by a federal jury; each former officer will face decades in prison. However, this is not the first time the BPD has been investigated for corruption; previous investigations have revealed that the police department is characterized by racism, classicism, and abuse of the legal system.
Furthermore, former Detective Momudu Gondo of the Task Force has been charged with corruption and nepotism towards members of his inner circle. Gondo aided his childhood friend in avoiding a conviction of possession with intent to distribute millions of dollars worth of heroin. Gondo offered the drug ring immunity; he also ran interference for the dealers, and protected them from getting arrested or getting their drugs confiscated by fellow police officers. The drug crew Gondo protected was the largest supplier of heroin to Baltimore and Harford counties. Nevertheless, dealer Glen Kyle Wells was just convicted this past Thursday, and Gondo and his colleagues currently await sentencing.
The Gun Trace Task Force is the epitome of a system of oppression working to further disadvantage Baltimore’s destitute residents and ravage the city’s lower income neighborhoods. The actions demonstrated by the Force are indicative of the department’s perpetuation of racist and classist stereotypes. These issues have riddled police departments nationwide for as long as police departments have existed, but it is only recently that cases such as these are coming to light. In order for true reform to occur, it is imperative that the Baltimore Police Department tackle its inherently discriminatory practices. It should go without say that the residents of Baltimore deserve a competent police force.
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