Archive | Drug Prohibitions RSS feed for this section

Second Body Cam Video of Baltimore Police Planting Drugs Then “Finding” Them Has Surfaced

Baltimore Police Department Planting Drugs Video

For the second time in a matter of weeks, body camera footage has been released showing officers from the Baltimore Police Department planting drugs. In both videos, the planting of that evidence was exposed by a feature of the body cams that causes them to begin saving video thirty seconds prior to the point where they are manually activated. This video is from November 2016, while the earlier one dates from January of this year.

In this latest video to surface, police were conducting a traffic stop in which they were profiling drivers in an effort to make drug arrests. After claiming to have seen the passenger in Shamere Collins’ vehicle making a drug sale, the police stopped them. However, after a thorough search, no drugs were found anywhere in the car.

The body cam video of that initial search includes audio of one officer stating that there would be “negative consequences” if they didn’t find drugs and thereby couldn’t arrest someone. After that, the cops for no apparent reason all turned their body cameras off.

What followed, according to CBS News.com:

When the cameras come back on, an officer is seen squatting by the driver’s side of the suspect’s car, apparently unaware that he’s being recorded.

He then stands up and steps back. About 30 seconds pass, and another officer approaches the car, then squats down and pulls out a bag of drugs.

Although the charges were thrown out once the public defender representing her got ahold of this video, Collins and her boyfriend, who was the passenger were charged with possession of opiates and marijuana, as a result. According to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, dozens more cases that involve this group of officers could also be thrown out.

Meanwhile, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis maintained that this is no reason for the public to “jump to conclusions” or make “heavy allegations” about police misconduct based on the video. Because concluding that something suspicious was going on after all the cops turned their cameras off right after one of them expressed concerns about getting in trouble if they didn’t find any drugs to justify an arrest, then video (that the cops didn’t expect to be recorded) showing one cop crouching next to the car, followed by body cam video (that they did expect to be recorded) of a different cop easily finding drugs in that same area after it had already been thoroughly searched is quite a jump.

Of course, this also comes on the heals of the previously released video (embedded below), which is even more damning. In that video, Officer Richard Pinheiro can be clearly seen putting a bag inside a can on a pile of debris in an alley. He then walks back out to the street, accompanied by two other officers who have not been named.

After activating the camera, he proceeds to walk back down the alley as one of the unnamed officers can be heard laughing behind him. Miraculously, he manages to quickly zero in on the can shortly after searching through the debris pile. He then pulls out the bag that he unwittingly recorded himself planting to reveal that it is filled with pills.

The man who was arrested as a result spent over seven months in jail awaiting trial before this video was made public and his charges were thrown out. So far, thirty-four other cases have also been thrown out and as many as fifty-five more could be, as well. Officer Pinheiro was (only) suspended for his actions, while the two other officers that watched (and laughed) as he planted evidence have received no punishment at all.

Not Isolated Incidents

These incidents don’t represent the only times that the Baltimore police have been under scrutiny for manufacturing evidence and manipulating body cameras. In March, all seven members of an “elite task force” that targets illegal weapons and drug crimes were indicted on racketeering charges for robberies that included completely innocent people of cash and filing false paperwork to get paid for overtime they didn’t actually work. In the process, they also falsified search warrants to justify detentions and traffic stops against their intended targets. As they were performing these “shake downs,” officers were known to have turned off their body cameras.

Nor is this the first confirmed instance of body camera footage being falsified to show police finding evidence against suspects. In May of this year, charges were dropped against a man in Colorado after a cop in Pueblo admitted he staged a video of himself  finding heroin and a gun in his car. In that case, Officer Seth Jensen claimed that he was merely “reenacting” his legitimate discovery of the evidence.

An “Unintended Consequence” of Transparency?

Given all of that, it’s rather interesting that in the CBS News video embedded below (beginning at about 3:45) correspondent Jeff Pegues characterizes the issue as a “downside of video transparency” and an “unintended consequence” of police wearing body cameras. Apparently, on his planet these type of incidents aren’t an argument for increased scrutiny and transparency, but rather a problem for “police departments that have to defend themselves against this type of policing.”

Obviously, I can’t see any reason we shouldn’t just trust these cops and accept their word. It would be crazy if cops didn’t have the ability to freely plant evidence without being detected and police departments had no incentive to eliminate “this type of policing.” That freedom to just arrest whoever they want and make up a reason undoubtedly would make their tough jobs so much easier.

Watch him throw it into the floorboards

BPD Officer Richard Pinheiro planting drugs

CBS News coverage of  the latest incident:

Leave a comment

Update: Second Mistrial Declared; Cincinnati Cop Ray Tensing Gets Away With Murder of Sam Dubose

For the second time, a jury has stated that it was deadlocked and unable to reach a decision on charges filed against University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing for the July 2015 murder of Sam Dubose. (See videos embedded below for body camera footage of that murder.) The jury initially indicated this morning that it was unable to reach a decision, but were told to go back and continue deliberating. Later this afternoon they returned and stated they were still deadlocked. As a result, Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz has declared a mistrial.

Although it hasn’t been officially announced yet, there won’t be a third trial. So that effectively means Tensing has officially joined the ever expanding club of police officers who have gotten away with murder, including three just this week alone (Tensing, Milwaukee Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown, and St. Paul Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez).

Of course, in order to have their killings declared justified all police officers need to do is state that they “feared for my life” and in order to get a mistrial they just need one of the twelve members of a jury to buy that rationalization. So that bar is incredibly low and that’s mostly by design. The system itself is tilted heavily in their favor and those running that system not only are their friends and co-workers, but have the further incentive of self preservation to push it even further in that direction.

In Tensing’s case, he claimed that he was in danger of being run over by Dubose as he attempted to drive away from a traffic stop the University of Cincinnati police officer had initiated because of a missing front license plate.

Via NBC News:

Tensing asked DuBose for his driver’s license and registration, which he failed to provide. The officer then ordered him to step out of his car and tried to open the door, but DuBose refused. The car began to pull away

With one hand still inside the car, Tensing yelled, “Stop! Stop!” before firing his gun at DuBose, striking him in the head. The car then began traveling out of control before coming to a stop.

Tensing’s bodycam captured the incident.

The men had a conversation for about one minute and 50 seconds before it escalated with Tensing and DuBose in a struggle. Within just a few seconds, Tensing fired his gun.

Two other officers were on scene, and their body cameras captured other angles of the shooting’s aftermath.

Those alternate angles captured by the other officers on the scene, as well as testimony from experts who examined those videos, contradicted Tensing’s claims that he was being dragged by, and in danger of being run over by, Dubose’s car.

It’s also been questioned whether the stop for something as trivial as a front license plate was merely an excuse used to justify a racially motivated profiling of Dubose. Officer Tensing’s unusually frequent history of traffic stops (when compared to other University of Cincinnati police officers) and the high percentage of minorities involved in those stops bolsters those claims.

Of course, the judges, prosecutors, and media are usually on the side of the cops and the general public is taught from the day they are born to believe cops are heroes that never lie or do anything bad. So it’s not that hard for them to at least find that one juror who will refuse to find a cop guilty, regardless of the actual facts presented during a trial. That’s a big part of why it’s almost impossible to convict a police officer regardless of the actual facts on the rare occasions when they get caught doing something outrageous enough to get charged in the first place.

Leave a comment

Update: Racial Profiling Case by LVMPD Saturation Team Body Cam Videos Show No Original Cause for Stop

In May of 2016, I reported on the case of Solomon Galloway, a Las Vegas man who was illegally detained, assaulted, and falsely arrested by one the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s “Saturation Teams” in February of that year. At the time, Galloway was the passenger in a vehicle driven by a co-worker, which had been stopped under the stated claim that he was speeding (more on that below).

The original pretense for that arrest and accompanying violent, illegal actions was Mr. Galloway’s refusal to identify himself. However, the passenger in a vehicle that has been stopped for a traffic violation is not considered a party to that infraction. As a result, they are not under any obligation to identify themselves. In fact, legally Galloway could have gotten out of the car and walked away from the traffic stop. (Since the actions of the driver do not represent the “reasonable suspicion” required to legally detain a passenger, they are “free to go.”)

Lacking a legitimate reason to detain Galloway, let alone arrest him, Metro’s designated harassment squad settled on the old standby of “I smelled pot.” They then embarked on a fruitless and illegal search of the car to hopefully find something to justify their illegal against against their victim. In the process, they even discussed amongst each other their need to “do what ever you gotta to do, because we gotta find something.” Unfortunately for them, they didn’t find anything at all.

Even more unfortunately for them, Galloway had placed a GoPro camera on his dashboard, which he turned on just after they were stopped. Unbeknownst to them, the entire incident, including the illegal search and that incriminating conversation, had been recorded on the GoPro. That included a statement from the supervisor on the scene, Lieutenant Connell, that they should “just arrest his ass and strip him,” once they finally gave up on finding anything to rationalize their actions. Galloway was then falsely arrested, taken to jail, and subjected to a humiliating and illegal strip search. All of which still failed to justify the obstruction charge that they eventually settled on.

It was already incredibly obvious from the GoPro video (which was later featured in a documentary about corruption among Las Vegas police entitled, “What Happened in Vegas“) that the LVMPD officers involved were completely lying and fabricating a reason to justify what they knew was a false arrest (and illegal demand for ID to begin with). Now however, body cam footage from the officer that initiated the stop, as well as another officer that participated in the assault on Galloway, have been released as part of discovery. One of the interesting aspects of those body camera videos is that in the beginning of the first officer’s footage you can actually see his speedometer as he’s driving. What that shows is that even the original justification for the stop was based on a lie.

Contrary to that officer’s claims about their speed (which fluctuated at various points in the video between them going either 55 or 65 mph when he pulled them over), they were in fact going below the 45 mph speed limit. Therefore they didn’t even have legal cause to pull them over in the first place. Nor did they have the reasonable suspicion of a crime necessary to justify detaining even the driver of that vehicle. That makes it even more obvious that everything that was done to Galloway, who was the passenger, after the illegal traffic stop was initiated was both unjustifiable and illegal, as well.

The badly disguised reality is that this was nothing more than a case of racial profiling and simple harassment. The LVMPD deploys what they call saturation teams into certain neighborhoods they have decided they want to concentrate on. These saturation teams descend upon those neighborhoods looking for any excuse to stop and harass the residents who live there. Even such minuscule “crimes” as jaywalking on a residential street or having a bicycle without a reflector are used to justify demanding ID from and attempting to question a person.

They are essentially just playing the odds in the hope that if they harass enough people within a chosen area they will find a certain percentage of individuals who have warrants or something illegal on them and that are willing to consent to a search to justify an arrest. Statistically, that makes the department look good, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the vast majority of the people in any given neighborhood are not actually criminals and don’t deserve to be indiscriminately harassed because a cop has arbitrarily decided they “do not belong” in that neighborhood.

The other side of that equation is that the areas that the LVMPD targets for their saturation teams are invariably those inhabited predominantly by poor and minority residents. In fact, some years ago a Metro spokesperson went so far as to explicitly state to the Las Vegas Review Journal that they would not use saturation tactics against residents living in the wealthy suburb of Summerlin.

As is noted in the video’s title, Galloway and his friend were stopped because they were people of color driving an expensive car within a geographical region that the LVMPD had deemed to be suspect. Everything that happened after that was a result of him not “respecting their authoritah.” An authority that they did not legally have and that he had every legal (and moral) right not to respect.

Video Featuring Police Body Camera Footage and GoPro Video

Original GoPro Video

Related Posts Submitted By or About Stephen Stubbs:

Stephen-Stubbs-CopBlockThose of you that have followed CopBlock.org over the past several years are probably already aware that Stephen Stubbs has been a frequent subject of posts on  NVCopBlock.org. He often represents bikers and motorcycle organizations, whom are frequent targets of harassment from the police. In addition, I have personally worked with Stephen in the past on several occasions through Nevada Cop Block on issues or cases involving his clients or on know your rights seminars he has done within the Las Vegas area.

Therefore, there is a pretty lengthy (and growing) list of posts on the Nevada Cop Block site involving Stephen Stubbs, his clients, and/or people or groups he is associated with. Included below are links to those posts.

6 Comments

“What Happened in Vegas” Didn’t Stay in Las Vegas; Police Brutality Documentary Premiers at Cinequest

Last week on March 4th, “What Happened in Vegas” had its world premier to rave reviews at the Cinequest Film Festival, which is held annually in San Jose, CA. (This year there were also additional screenings held in Redwood City.) The documentary by Ramsey Denison is primarily focused on three very questionable shootings of Las Vegas residents by members of the LVMPD (AKA “Metro”) and the lack of any resulting consequences for the officers involved in those killings.

Within Las Vegas all three cases were very prominent incidents that received widespread local coverage and generated significant criticisms against the LVMPD and their handling of them. The inadequacies of the investigations into the questions surrounding those cases and outright cover-ups, as well as the reasons behind them also play a major role in the film.

Trevon Cole and Bryan Yant

The first case featured in the movie is that of Trevon Cole, who was caught on camera selling a very small amount of marijuana to an LVMPD detective. Cole very easily could have been arrested right then or at virtually any other time he stepped out of his house and there was no indication that Cole was or would become violent.

Instead, in order to create a dramatic confrontation intended to be used in a proposed reality show the LVMPD was hoping to create, they decided to conduct a full SWAT raid on his apartment. During that raid, Sgt. Bryan Yant, who had intentionally used falsified information from another person (that actually lived in Texas) with the same name as Cole to attain the search warrant, shot Cole in the head with an AR-15 in front of his pregnant girlfriend, while Trevon was on his knees in the bathroom.

Later, in an attempt to justify their actions, Metro police officers showed up at the house belonging to Cole’s in-laws, where his girlfriend, who was literally within days of having their baby, was staying. They then conducted an illegal search of Cole’s belongings hoping to find something that would incriminate him and provide justifications for the murder.

Not only was nobody held accountable in any way whatsoever for the falsified search warrant, the illegal search afterwards, or the murder itself, Bryan Yant, for whom this was his third deadly shooting, was recently hired by the Las Vegas Police Protective Association as the union representative that advises police officers when they are involved in shootings.

Erik Scott and Costco’s (Conveniently) Malfunctioning Camera

The second and most well known case featured in the movie is that of Erik Scott, who was shot by LVMPD Officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola as he walked out of a Costco located in a suburb of Las Vegas known as Summerlin. The original reason that the police were called was because an employee at the Costco had noticed that Scott was wearing a holster under his shirt. Erik Scott was legally registered to carry the concealed weapon that he was armed with that day. However, Costco has a policy against firearms within their stores. After having a discussion about that with Scott, a Costco security guard, Shai Lierley, called Metro and reportedly exaggerated his behavior. (Erik had asserted his legal right to be armed, but had not acted in a threatening manner.)

After an evacuation order was given at the store, Lierley pointed Scott out to Mosher, Stark, and Mendiola. Those officers then proceeded to give contradictory, confusing, and aggressive orders to Scott. Shortly after, Mosher shot Scott and after he had already fallen to the ground Stark and Mendiola followed suit firing numerous rounds into his body as he lay already mortally wounded.

Like most large retail stores, that Costco location had security cameras throughout the inside and outside of the store. One of those was situated where it should have recorded the entire confrontation. By some amazing “coincidence” that one surveillance camera just happened to be malfunctioning that day and all the footage from that specific time was unrecoverable.

In the movie, Erik Scott’s father, Bill, also describes how the police soon realized that a report by the EMT in the ambulance that transported Erik to the hospital where he was pronounced dead had noted that there was a gun on his body still within the holster. the problem with that was that the police had at some point retrieved that gun and placed it at the scene of the shooting to corroborate their story that Scott had pulled his gun as a justification for it. The next day, even after they were denied permission to do so by Erik’s brother, who lived with him at the time, Metro officers conducted an illegal search on his apartment under the pretense of securing his property. Not long after, the narrative became that Scott had actually been carrying two guns at the time of the shooting.

As was the case with those involved in the Trevon Cole murder, Erik Scott’s killing was ruled justified. In fact, Mosher and Stark were given awards for bravery during the murder of Scott shortly afterwards. (Mendiola had been fired by that point for giving a gun to a felon.) Both of them are still employed with the LVMPD.

Stanley Gibson and Jesus Arevalo

The third case featured in the movie is that of Stanley Gibson, a Gulf War veteran who had cancer and PTSD, both of which were caused by his military service. Partially as a result of his medication being cut off by the Veteran’s Administration and partly because of the effects of the cancer on his memory, Gibson entered the wrong apartment complex after having just moved. Police were called after someone saw him attempting to open the door to the apartment he thought was his and soon after they had blocked his car in inside the parking lot.

In spite of the fact that Gibson’s car was completely blocked in by two unoccupied police cars (see embedded video below) and would not have been able to move, the police at the scene decided they could not simply wait him out. Instead, they concocted a plan to break out Gibson’s back window with a bean bag round and then shoot pepper spray into the car (which is against Metro’s policy) to force Gibson, who at the time was unresponsive, to come out of it. However, once the bean bag round was fired, Officer Jesus Arevalo fired seven times with his personal AR-15, later claiming that he thought the firing of the bean bag round was Gibson shooting at them.

While the investigation was still ongoing Arevalo’s soon to be ex-wife was recorded stating that, among other things, he had said before Gibson’s killing that he wanted to shoot someone so he could get paid time off, had referred to Gibson using a racial slur and expressing disdain for him, and had bragged about how fast he was able to fire off those seven rounds. Not surprisingly though, Stanley Gibson’s shooting, like every other police shooting in the entire history of the city of Las Vegas was ruled justified. Not only that but Arevalo was placed on disability as a result of stress from the shooting and given a monthly payment of $23,000 to $28,000 (plus cost of living increases) for the rest of his life.

Beaten and Arrested for Reporting Police Brutality

Several other non-fatal incidents are also featured in the movie, including an unarmed and innocent man who was shot at a local 7-11 after he was mistook for a murder suspect and a man who used a hidden GoPro camera to film himself being assaulted and falsely arrested by a “saturation team” after he refused to provide ID as a passenger at a traffic stop (which he legally was not required to do). The video in the latter case also captured audio and video of those officers stating as they searched his car that they “had to find something” to justify his arrest, after the fact.

The other incident featured within the movie is director Ramsey Denison’s own arrest by Las Vegas Police Officers Mark Belanger, Kyle Frett, and Jared Casper. While on vacation in Vegas, Ramsey saw those three officers both verbally and physically abusing a man they had already taken into custody and successfully handcuffed.

Not having seen that type of behavior from cops before and having a positive opinion of the police from working on “true-crime” shows as a film editor in Los Angeles, Denison made the rookie mistake of calling 911 and reporting the officers. The 911 operator responded by calling Belanger, Frett, and Casper to let them know someone had called to report misconduct by them. They then promptly came over and beat, then arrested, Denison.

Later, both the supervisor who had responded to Denison’s 911 complaint and the Internal Affairs “investigators” rubber stamped their approval of his treatment by the trio of Metro officers. Also not terribly surprisingly, he was later told that none of the cameras at the club where his assault took place were turned on that night, effectively precluding him from being able to file a lawsuit to attain some sort of justice. That, along with his experience in the jail and during court, prompted Denison to begin looking into the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and eventually to make “What Happened in Vegas.

Shining a Light on the Darkness within the LVMPD

Ramsey contacted me a couple months after his arrest, which was also not long after I and several other members of Nevada Cop Block were arrested for the ridiculous charge of graffiti (and even more ridiculous “conspiracy” charges) for writing with chalk on public sidewalks during protests over the murder of Stanley Gibson, whom I was friends with in high school, and Metro’s many other victims, including Erik Scott and Trevon Cole.

After meeting with him and getting the feeling that he was genuine in his intentions, I agreed on doing an interview, much of which was included in the movie. Also, while I was limited on what I could discuss about our arrests for chalking, due to lawsuits we had filed (which are still active to this day) as a result, that is discussed in general terms within the film. In addition, several scenes shot of me chalking were included in the movie.

Due to the connections I had built working with Nevada Cop Block and during those demonstrations, I was able to point Denison toward several people within Las Vegas that I felt would potentially be helpful, including some who knew or were related to Erik Scott, Trevon Cole, and Stanley Gibson. I’m happy to say that Ramsey did a great job of seeking those people out, building trust with them, and presenting them in a convincing, professional, and impactful way within the movie.

He also did a great job of researching the background of those featured in the movie and portraying them as real people, as well as separating their true characters from the smear campaigns that the LVMPD uses to deflect blame from the department after they kill someone. What Happened in Vegas does a very equitable job of showing who Scott, Cole, and Gibson were and the impact their murders had on those they left behind.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the movie’s premier screenings at the Cinequest Film Festival last week and it turned out as good as I could have ever expected, if not better. Audiences, as well as critics, attending those screenings were very responsive and positive about the movie. I very much appreciate the work that Ramsey and his crew did both in making a great movie and shining a light on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that I expect will not go unnoticed and that was much overdue.

9 Comments

Seven Baltimore Police Officers Arrested on Multiple Federal Charges in Racketeering Indictment

Baltimore Gun Task Force Racketeering Indictments

Yesterday, seven cops from the Baltimore Police Department were charged with multiple federal crimes in a racketeering indictment. Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and Detectives Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor, and Maurice Ward were all accused of “shaking down citizens” for cash, as well as filing false court paperwork and making fraudulent overtime claims. All seven were part of the “Gun Trace Task Force,” which worked to remove illegal guns from the streets in Baltimore.

In addition, Det. Gondo was also indicted on drug charges with five other people that are not police officers. That indictment included using inside information to tip off drug dealers regarding BPD investigations. Gondo was also accused of being directly involved in the drug operation itself.

The crimes were uncovered in the process of an ongoing probe by the FBI into a pattern of civil rights abuses perpetrated by members of the Baltimore police. That probe was initiated after attention was focused on the city by the murder of Freddie Gray in April of 2015 and the subsequent riots.

Via the Baltimore Sun:

(United States Attorney Rod J.) Rosenstein accused the officers of participating in “a pernicious conspiracy scheme” that “tarnishes the reputation of all police officers.”

“These defendants were allegedly involved in stopping people who had not committed crimes, and not only seizing money but pocketing it,” he said. “These are really robberies by people wearing police uniforms.”

All seven officers appeared in handcuffs and street clothes for initial hearings in U.S. District Court in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon. Each was represented by a court-appointed attorney. Each affirmed he understood the charges against him.

All of the officers were ordered held pending detention hearings. Hearings for Gondo, Hendrix, Hersl, Jenkins, Rayam, and Ward were scheduled for Thursday. A hearing for Taylor was scheduled for Friday.

Prosecutors and the officers’ attorneys will argue at those hearings about whether the officers should be released before their trials.

Family members of several officers were in the courtroom and voiced their support and love before the officers were taken away. Family members declined to comment.

Defense attorneys for the officers said they were still getting acquainted with the allegations in the indictment.

Police union President Gene S. Ryan said union officials were “very disturbed” by the charges against its members.

“These officers are entitled to due process and a fair trial in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of our state,” Ryan said in a statement. “It would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment until the charges leveled against these officers are finally resolved.”

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said the involvement of federal authorities “confirms the inherent difficulties with the BPD investigating itself,” and warned the indictment would have “pervasive implications on numerous active investigations and pending cases.”

Her office was not involved in the investigation, and was not informed of it until Wednesday morning…

Some of the officers have long been accused of using excessive force or of other wrongdoing. The city has paid out more than $500,000 in settlements in cases involving the officers, according to a review by The Baltimore Sun.

Members of the city’s state legislative delegation called for a federal investigation into Rayam in 2009 after he was involved in three shootings over the course of two years. The city has settled multiple lawsuits involving Hersl.

“The majority of these officers have been known to my attorneys as having significant credibility issues,” Baltimore Deputy Public Defender Natalie Finegar said. “We have aggressively been pursuing personnel records to be able to highlight the issues with their credibility on the force.”

Rosenstein said federal prosecutors quietly dropped five cases involving the Gun Trace Task Force while the officers were being investigated.

As recently as October, the Police Department was praising the unit in an internal newsletter for its work getting guns off the streets. The unit made more than 110 gun arrests in less than 11 months last year…

In one incident in September, federal prosecutors said in court papers, the officers stopped an individual leaving a storage facility and said they had a warrant to search his storage unit. They did not, authorities said. Hersl, Jenkins and Rayam then took a sock containing $4,800 and removed $2,000, prosecutors said.

Rayam was recorded telling Gondo that he had “taxed” the man, prosecutors said.

“He won’t say nothing,” Rayam was recorded saying, according to prosecutors.

A month earlier, prosecutors said, officers pulled a man over, detained him and took drugs and $1,700 from him. No incident report was prepared regarding the stop, prosecutors said.

In another incident in July 2016, prosecutors said, they stole $70,000 and divided the money up.

Prosecutors said the officers alerted each other to potential investigations into their activities, coached each other to give false testimony to internal affairs investigators, and turned off their body cameras to avoid recording their encounters.

The criminal activity occurred throughout 2016, prosecutors said. The Justice Department was investigating the department for much of the year.

Justice Department investigators reported that the department routinely violated individuals’ constitutional rights by conducting unlawful stops and using excessive force, among other problems. They concluded that those practices overwhelmingly affected residents of poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.

The Justice Department and the city agreed to terms of a consent decree in January outlining sweeping reforms to the department. That agreement awaits approval by a federal judge.

“We wouldn’t be under a consent decree if we didn’t have issues,” Davis said. “We have issues.”

Meanwhile, the officers’ work was celebrated by the department. Lt. Chris O’Ree wrote in October that the seizure of 132 guns in less than 11 months was “no small task.”

“Their relentless pursuit to make our streets safer by removing guns and arresting the right people for the right reasons has made our City safer,” O’Ree wrote.

Prosecutors also said the officers filed for overtime they didn’t work. On one day in July 2016, prosecutors said, one of the officers told another about being in the poker room at the Maryland Live Casino in Anne Arundel County. The second officer said he was going to get a drink, prosecutors said. Both filed for overtime that day, prosecutors said.

Jenkins nearly doubled his annual salary of $85,400 with $83,300 in overtime in 2016, prosecutors said. Hersl was paid $66,600 in overtime on top of a base salary of $77,600. Taylor made an extra $56,200 on top of his $66,800 salary.

There’s several things that are interesting about this case. One is the fact that, just several months ago the Baltimore Police Department, who was not informed of the investigation until the indictments were ready to be filed, was praising the great work of these same officers. Despite that praise, even before these indictments, several of them already had a history of misconduct complaints, including allegations of violence.

Beyond that, the very nature of the case involves a bit of irony in the characterization of the crimes committed. In his speech while announcing the indictment, Rosenstein described what they were accused of this way: “These defendants were allegedly involved in stopping people who had not committed crimes, and not only seizing money but pocketing it. These are really robberies by people wearing police uniforms.”

Of course, if they had limited themselves to finding an excuse to stop drivers out on the highway, oftentimes whose only “crime” is having out of state license plates, then they could have legally and without any recourse taken whatever cash those drivers had on them. Such cash seizures require no conviction or even so much as the filing of criminal charges. In reality, you could say that the only difference between what they did and drug forfeiture laws was the part about them personally pocketing the money.

In fact, in essence the only real difference between the officially sanctioned robberies by people wearing Magic Uniforms and the ones these guys will eventually be given probation and/or community service for was that they didn’t give the government its cut of the profits from their self described “taxation.”

Leave a comment