The Gun-Trace Task Force was supposedly an effort to get illegal guns off the streets in Baltimore. What it really was – as investigations later showed – was a police corruption scandal resulting in the conviction and imprisonment of several local police officers. The Gun-Trace Task Force was an “elite” Baltimore police team consisting of eight cops. It spent years abusing power, infringing constitutional rights, and stealing thousands of dollars from the city. The list of injustices the Task Force committed is long. Here are four of the ways in which it terrorized Baltimore residents.
The “Door Pop” is a tactic in which members of the Gun-Trace Task Force would target groups of people – typically black males – on the streets. The police officers would speed their cars (often unmarked vehicles) toward the group of people and stop abruptly, watching for people who would run. With no probable cause to conduct a chase, these officers would then chase down those who ran and place them under arrest for a variety of crimes.
As experts have since explained, it is no surprise that individuals would run when they see an unmarked car speeding toward them and then stopping right next to the group. In a city with an unusually high rate of crime, most people would assume the car was someone trying to shoot them or otherwise cause harm. Yet the Task Force was using the “Door Pop” method as a way to “catch criminals.”
This unlawful policing method involves “peeking” into someone’s vehicle or home without a warrant. The purpose of this tactic is to have a look around (without permission) to see if they find anything that could give them grounds for a search warrant. The lawful procedure works the opposite way – an officer needs a reason for a warrant before looking around a home or vehicle.
One victim of the corrupt Task Force, Jovonne Walker, said that two police came to her home after the arrest of her husband. Walker has stated that they forced their way inside after she did not give them consent to search her home and had a look around. It wasn’t until after they finished searching her home they told her they were going to go get a search warrant. The “Sneak and Peek” is an example of unlawful search and seizure – an infringement of the Fourth Amendment right.
Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, part of the Task Force, used his own biases and prejudices to come up with the “Dope Boy Car” tactic. In this scenario, officers would conduct traffic stops and even arrests based purely on the type or style of vehicle the individual was driving. The officers would associate a certain type of vehicle with drug traffickers. One of the Sergeant’s “favorite” Dope Boy Cars, for example, was an Acura TL.
Perhaps one of the most heinous crimes the officers in the Gun-Trace Task Force later confessed to was planting BB guns on unarmed people during stops and arrests. Officers admitted on the stand that their sergeant instructed them to carry BB guns and plant them on otherwise unarmed individuals if they “accidentally hit somebody” – meaning shot and killed someone. Planting this evidence would feasibly give the officer the green light for using deadly force, since the write-up would state that the victim had a weapon.
If the Baltimore Gun-Trace Task Force injured you, killed a loved one, infringed upon your rights, falsely imprisoned you, or otherwise caused you harm, contact an attorney. You could be eligible for damage compensation in light of the convictions of the officers involved in the force.