"The defendant in this case business model was that the people that they were robbing had no recourse, said acting U.S. attorney Stephen Schenning. "If you rob drug dealers they have no place to go." (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
With the federal prosecution of the Gun Trace Task Force officers in Baltimore now concluded — six officers have pleaded guilty, and a jury found two others guilty on Monday — a question remains: What is being done to prevent police corruption in the future?
The answer is a lot — but the results of the efforts are still to be seen.
A new police department corruption unit is investigating at least 10 more city officers accused in court testimony of participating in or facilitating the gun unit’s corruption, and acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa has said additional anti-corruption initiatives are being put in place to enhance supervision of specialty units and overtime spending.
The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office do not comment on active investigations. That includes investigations linked to cases in which convicted defendants, such as the gun task force officers, still await sentencing. But it’s unclear whether the federal case remains active in other ways — as in federal agents pursuing other suspects or prosecutors considering additional indictments.
While many Baltimore lawmakers said they were encouraged that Darryl De Sousa could help turn back a surge of violence, some said they were dissatisfied with what they heard from De Sousa and Mayor Catherine Pugh on the issue of police corruption.
“I actually love that idea. That’s something that my internal team has been in conversation about in the last couple days,” he said. “That”s something that we’re going to work through almost immediately.”
The consent decree requires improvements to officer training and frontline supervision and a review of the ways in which community members oversee the department and the way complaints of wrongdoing by officers are handled. That work is underway.
The decree also requires reforms in the way officers’ performance is evaluated, the way officers receive assistance and support — including after trauma — and the way police use force, stop and search citizens, and interact with minority populations, youth, people with disabilities and protesters.
After the indictments last year, then-Commissioner Kevin Davis demoted Lt. Col. Sean Miller, a high-ranking commander who oversaw citywide crime-fighting initiatives, to lieutenant, and the gun unit’s supervisor above Jenkins, Lt. Marjorie German, back to patrol. Neither German nor Miller has been accused of wrongdoing.
Kenneth Thompson, the attorney leading the independent team monitoring the city’s compliance with the consent decree, said the group has been “closely following” the Gun Trace Task Force trial and other recent events, such as the training academy concerns, and that the parties to the federal agreement have “engaged in a fulsome and robust discussion of current issues.”
“Both police training and police integrity — including discipline and misconduct proceedings — are areas targeted for reform by the Consent Decree,” Thompson said. “Accordingly, these topics are of particular interest to the Monitoring Team, and we will be providing the Court with regular, detailed reports regarding BPD’s progress, or lack thereof, towards compliance in these areas.”
The parties are due to discuss progress made by the department in the area of misconduct investigations and discipline at their next meeting on March 2, according to a court scheduling order.
De Sousa, a 30-year veteran appointed last month to lead the department, has acknowledged the department has fallen short in confronting corruption. He has called reform a top priority — along with addressing violence and restoring pride in a department demoralized and embarrassed by years of misconduct and scandal.
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Jackson said he is “excited to get started” to introduce “good constitutional-based policing that our citizens expect.”
After the gun task force officers were indicted in March, Davis did away with plainclothes units such as the gun task force for drug and gun enforcement. Such units — known on the streets as “knockers” — have long drawn citizen complaints.