Baltimore Police internal affairs received a tip that Gun Trace Task Force ringleader Wayne Jenkins was robbing drug dealers more than a year before he was charged by the FBI with committing robberies, according to a new court filing.
That tip came from a police officer who did not give the information to his own department, but instead told a local reporter. She in turn passed it on to Internal Affairs, according to records obtained by attorneys in civil lawsuits against the department.
The filings show internal affairs received dozens of complaints of alleged wrongdoing and criminal activity by officers in the GTTF sphere going back to at least 2012. The documents also accuse the department of taking little or no action against the accused officers, attorneys asserted in their court filing.
The extent of the criminal activity by the officers did not become public until a federal grand jury issued sweeping charges in 2017, eventually sending nearly a dozen officers to federal prison, including a 25-year sentence for Jenkins.
The internal affairs documents are among a new trove of otherwise secret internal affairs records provided in the discovery process of federal lawsuits related to the Gun Trace Task Force scandal. Attorneys Joshua Insley and Hannah Ernstberger included the documents as part of an amended complaint against the Baltimore Police Department.
One of the most serious allegations came from a WBAL reporter, whose name is redacted from an internal affairs summary report. The reporter told police in November 2015 she had received information from a source of hers that disputed a Baltimore Police Department press release saying that police impersonators were robbing people.
In reality, the robber was Jenkins using an unmarked police car, the reporter told police, according to an internal affairs document filed in court this week. The reporter’s source was a Baltimore police officer who did not want to be identified or speak with investigators, the document said.
The records show little follow-up over the ensuing months — until the case was closed when Jenkins was arrested in March 2017 on federal racketeering charges that he and his squad had been robbing people using their badges. They also underscore a common theme in more than a dozen lawsuits against the city — that Baltimore police officials ignored a pattern and practice of criminal activity by some of its most decorated plain clothes officers.
“Defendant BPD continues to conceal the nature, cause, and consequences of the ongoing criminal enterprise,” the attorneys wrote in the new complaint.
The tip about Jenkins came as police were circulating to the public tips about what they called police impersonators who were robbing people. At the time, federal investigators were in the early stages of an investigation of the Gun Trace Task Force. Jenkins worked in a different unit but would be transferred into the GTTF in the summer of 2016 amid an FBI wiretap investigation.
Police were actively looking for an apparent police impersonator driving a silver Chevy Malibu who had committed a string of robberies. In one instance, Southern District officers on patrol in the 2100 block of McHenry Street saw a silver Malibu turn on its red and blue lights, and a siren. Officers did not recognize it as a police car, and turned to investigate, but it turned off its headlights and sped away.
Jenkins was assigned a silver Malibu, and testimony through the Gun Trace Task Force case showed that the officers robbed people who they stopped and searched. In some incidents, cooperating officers said Jenkins claimed to be a federal agent.
The document included in the court filing redacts the name of the WBAL reporter who received the tip, but a second reference refers to “Ms. Robinson.” The Sun contacted WBAL investigative reporter Lisa Robinson, who said she did not recall such an incident. WBAL news director Tim Tunison deferred to Robinson’s comments and said WBAL would have no further comment.
The Sun could not definitively confirm the identity of the reporter cited in the document.
T.J. Smith, who was the Baltimore Police director of media relations at the time, told The Sun that he did not “recall the instance, but if I received such information, I would’ve forwarded to [the internal affairs department] for them to follow-up on.”
The records show internal affairs officers made some efforts to pursue the tip. Lt. Rob Morris of internal affairs spoke to the WBAL reporter, then contacted Southern District Capt. Sean Mahoney, who advised that he “had no actual reported robberies involving a silver Malibu and suspects posing as police.” That conflicts with the press release issued by the media relations unit that a series of such incidents had been reported.
Morris next emailed the CitiWatch camera center, requesting all footage from the area of McHenry Street at the time of the incident. The records don’t reflect any further activity until Feb. 18, 2016, when the “case book was submitted for review."
The notes show the case was “sustained," on March 31, 2017, a month after Jenkins was charged.
Despite calls for reform, police misconduct records remain secret in Maryland, unlike many other states. The lawsuit attaches other internal affairs case summaries provided by the Baltimore Police Department, showing case that were discarded or took years to wind through the agency.
“BPD engaged in a course of conduct wherein meaningful investigations were not commenced against officers they deemed to be valuable to the Department," the lawsuit states. "Alternatively, if a meaningful investigation was commenced and the allegations were sustained, the BPD failed to properly reprimand the officers, permitting them to remain on the force without appropriate punishment.”
The court filing was based on records turned over by Baltimore police to defense attorneys, who have long argued that internal affairs documents would prove their contention that department leaders knew or should have known about the rampant criminal conduct of some plainclothes officers. The filing outlined several incidents of what lawyers called abuses by police that went unpunished, including:
- A 2012 case involving convicted Det. Evodio Hendrix alleged false arrest and harassment. “Though the complainant ultimately declined to pursue the false arrest claim, she pursued the harassment claim,” the lawsuit says. “However, the Internal Affairs Department transferred the file to the Western District without investigating and closed the file.”
- Between February 2012 and April 2016, the records show 19 use of force claims were filed against former Officer Marcus Taylor, including two allegations of excessive force and 11 uses or attempted uses of a taser on a fleeing suspect.
- Officer Maurice Ward was investigated as part of a 2012 incident that resulted in another officer being criminally charged with second-degree assault a year later. The records show that the BPD issued a “gag order” to a lieutenant for speaking to a witness in the case.
- A complaint filed by a citizen in August 2015 that alleged Jenkins drove his vehicle directly at him and then “stood over him in a threatening manner,” the records show. On Sept. 25, a month later, the complainant called to state he felt that his complaint was being ignored. “Despite having not conducted any meaningful investigation, Sergeant Laverne Ellis of Internal Affairs told the complainant that Sergeant Jenkins' ‘actions were rectified through verbal counseling.’”
Ellis and Jenkins both received an award for working together during the 2015 unrest to commandeer a state prison van and rescue injured officers, the records show.
The city has reached settlements recently in 20 civil lawsuits brought in the fallout of the Gun Trace Task Force scandal. The dollar amounts have not been disclosed but are expected to be put before the Board of Estimates in the coming weeks.
Other lawsuits are pending, prompting the new disclosures in the case filed by Insley and Ernstberger, whose client Eric Rich said convicted Det. Daniel Hersl planted a gun on him in 2007. Rich’s case was taken to federal court, and his defense attorney sought and obtained Hersl’s internal affairs records. Federal prosecutors dropped the charges.
A previous version of this article identified the officer who provided the information as working for the Baltimore police department. Federal court records identify the source only as a police officer. The Sun regrets the error.