Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force Officers Were ‘Both Cops and Robbers’ at Same Time

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise, right, questions former Baltimore Police Detective Maurice Ward as Judge Catherine Blake looks on during the trial of Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor.

The video opens with a group of Baltimore police officers prying open a safe, revealing thick stacks of cash held together by two rubber bands each.

They call to their sergeant, Wayne Jenkins, who instructs the group not to touch anything and to keep the camera rolling — he wanted this one done by the book.

Except, Detective Maurice Ward testified Tuesday, the officers already had pocketed half the $200,000 they found inside the safe before the recording started, after taking a man’s keys during a traffic stop and entering his home without a warrant. It was one of many illegal tactics Ward said the officers used as they chased guns and drugs across the city while skimming proceeds for themselves.

Ward is one of four detectives from the police department’s defunct Gun Trace Task Force who have pleaded guilty and are expected to testify at the trial of two fellow officers, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, which began with opening statements Tuesday.

Ward’s testimony outlined astonishing, everyday misconduct: The officers would drive up on groups of men, slam on the brakes and pop open their doors, for no reason other than to see if anyone would run. Those who fled were pursued, detained and searched. Jenkins profiled so-called “dope boy cars” — cars he believed were likely to be driven by drug dealers — and pulled them over under invented circumstances.

“The Gun Trace Task Force wasn’t a unit that went rogue,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told jurors Tuesday morning. “It was a unit of officers who had already gone rogue.”

A look a the timeline of our coverage of the Baltimore Police racketeering case from the first day U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein announced the charges until the upcoming trial. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
Wise, holding up the badges and guns that belonged to Hersl and Taylor, said the officers’ success in the police department was judged by their ability to get drugs and guns. Within that work, which often included cutting corners, they took advantage of “crimes of opportunity,” Wise said.

“They were, simply put, both cops and robbers at the same time,” Wise said.

Hersl’s defense attorney, William Purpura, conceded that the 17-year veteran breached his oath as an officer, but said prosecutors had overcharged the case. The detectives are charged with taking part in a racketeering enterprise, robbery and extortion, and use of a firearm in a crime of violence.

“The evidence will show, and it will show, Detective Hersl did breach that oath. His actions embarrassed the city, the Baltimore Police Department, his family and himself,” Purpura said. But, he said, “the evidence will show Detective Hersl committed the crime of theft, not a crime of violence.”

Theft is not one of the charges that falls under the racketeering statute, nor is it a crime of violence.

Taylor’s attorney, Jenifer Wicks, implored jurors to question the motivations of the government’s witnesses, which include co-defendants who have pleaded guilty and people who were arrested by the officers and are motivated to lie about them, she said.

Eight members of the Gun Trace Task Force were indicted last year, and six of them have pleaded guilty. Four are expected to testify against their former partners.

Ward was the first. Though he has only pleaded guilty to crimes dating to 2014, Ward admitted his crimes stretched back “years before” then. Some were committed with other officers, while others he committed by himself.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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