Baltimore police corruption myths: Dirty cops don't just target criminals

Yes, robbery is still illegal, even when cops are pocketing the spoils

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published February 19, 2018 7:00AM (EST)

Momodu Gando, Daniel Hersl and Wayne Jenkins (AP/Salon)
Momodu Gando, Daniel Hersl and Wayne Jenkins (AP/Salon)

What the public gets wrong.

Baltimore City Police officers of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) Evodio Hendrix, Maurice Ward, Daniel Hersl, Marcus Taylor, Wayne Jenkins, Thomas Allers, Jemell Rayam and Momodu Gondo are guilty of a plethora of crimes falling under their racketeering convictions, ranging from robbery and selling drugs to fraud. All eight men are currently awaiting sentencing.

As I've been following this case, listening to opinions and collecting information­, one common narrative I've heard is this: "Those cops only targeted criminals. They had to use special tactics to keep up with the everyday evolving world of crime, and everyday citizens weren't affected by their actions." This claim is problematic for a number of reasons. Let's use the case of April Sims as an example.

Sims, a successful hair stylist in Baltimore, was targeted by the GTTF back in 2016. Her flashy car caught the attention of Jenkins, and he started watching her apartment, excitedly reporting suspicious activity to Gondo, according to the Baltimore Sun. Jenkins then crafted a plan to raid her home in search of cash and other goods. He told Gondo that only they and Hersl would be involved in this mission. He thought there would be $40,000 to $50,000 inside that the three could split. Hersl responded, "I can use the money, I'm in the process of buying a house."

The officers were caught on tape entering her complex. They were denied access by security until Hersl came in with a piece of paper and some police gear. The trio found no cash; however, they did retrieve 390 grams of heroin, gel caps, a digital scale and a Chanel bag worth $5,000. They turned in the drugs, along with the rest of the paraphernalia, and Gondo gave the purse to a woman he was dating. Reporting the drugs wasn't an example of good police work — it was a petty attempt to make Sims pay for not having cash in the house for the police officers to steal.

The counterargument I'm hearing revolves around the 390 grams of heroin that came off of the street as a result of the officers' break-in; however, that neglects the fact that the officers were not looking for drugs. Finding heroin was not a part of their agenda. They were looking for cash and stumbled across the heroin by mistake during a botched robbery, while using their badges as a shield. There's also the question of where the drugs actually came from — they could have been planted in Sims' home, as the racketeering investigation proved the members of the task force had done so to frame others.

Remember, finding drugs was never a part of their mission. That means that they were the bad guys, too. Actually, the GTTF are worse than the bad guys, because they stole after pledging to protect and serve the people of Baltimore. Meanwhile, our taxes paid their ridiculously high salaries and their fraudulent overtime.

True police reform will never happen as long as we continue to make excuses for police officers when they break laws while celebrating every time they accomplish something they get paid to do. Our low standards are evident when we applaud cops reporting a drug bust, even after we find out their only true intention was to steal.

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

MORE FROM D. Watkins

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Baltimore Baltimore Police Commentary Gun Trace Task Force Police Corruption