We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption PDF AZW3 EPUB MOBI TXT Download

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • The astonishing true story of “one of the most startling police corruption scandals in a generation” (The New York Times), from the Pulitzer Prize–nominated reporter who exposed a gang of criminal cops and their yearslong plunder of an American cityNOW AN HBO SERIES FROM THE WIRE CREATOR DAVID SIMON AND GEORGE PELECANOS“A work of journalism that not only chronicles the rise and fall of a corrupt police unit but can stand as the inevitable coda to the half-century of disaster that is the American drug war.”—David Simon Baltimore, 2015. Riots are erupting across the city as citizens demand justice for Freddie Gray, a twenty-five-year-old Black man who has died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody. Drug and violent crime are surging, and Baltimore will reach its highest murder count in more than two decades: 342 homicides in a single year, in a city of just 600,000 people. Facing pressure from the mayor’s office—as well as a federal investigation of the department over Gray’s death—Baltimore police commanders turn to a rank-and-file hero, Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, and his elite plainclothes unit, the Gun Trace Task Force, to help get guns and drugs off the street.  But behind these new efforts, a criminal conspiracy of unprecedented scale was unfolding within the police department. Entrusted with fixing the city’s drug and gun crisis, Jenkins chose to exploit it instead. With other members of the empowered Gun Trace Task Force, Jenkins stole from Baltimore’s citizens—skimming from drug busts, pocketing thousands in cash found in private homes, and planting fake evidence to throw Internal Affairs off their scent. Their brazen crime spree would go unchecked for years. The results were countless wrongful convictions, the death of an innocent civilian, and the mysterious death of one cop who was shot in the head, killed just a day before he was scheduled to testify against the unit. In this urgent book, award-winning investigative journalist Justin Fenton distills hundreds of interviews, thousands of court documents, and countless hours of video footage to present the definitive account of the entire scandal. The result is an astounding, riveting feat of reportage about a rogue police unit, the city they held hostage, and the ongoing struggle between American law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve.

Justin Fenton
March 15, 2022
352 pages

File Size: 28 MB
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“Fenton populates his narrative with a network of officers, informants and street dealers, all with different motivations and interests. . . . The overall effect is to capture the disorienting, churning quality of a city where the good guys and bad guys aren’t easily distinguished. . . . [Fenton] shows how, in our zeal to combat crime, we have allowed institutions to produce it.”—The New York Times Book Review “Baltimore’s grim realities have been mined by talented writers like D. Watkins, Wes Moore and, most famously, celebrated author and TV producer David Simon, whose books and television series—Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets,The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood and The Wire—deftly illuminated Charm City’s complex web of problems. One could be excused for wondering whether there is any more to say about Baltimore and crime. But the gripping new book We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption puts that concern to rest.”—The Washington Post“Fenton tells a story of bad people and bad attitudes. . . . His book reveals the way systemic discrimination operates, whom it affects and how it is sustained. His narrative is brisk and engaging.”—London Review of Books“A standout examination of the failures of policing, laid out in context with greater systemic failures . . . We Own This City is a sobering and necessary account of one dramatic way that trust was destroyed, but it is as much a damning indictment of how that destruction grew out of a mixture of negligence, incompetence and hubris.”—The Wall Street Journal“A remarkable story about the real-life collision of corruption, criminality, and racial profiling. Justin Fenton tells a well-written, wrenching narrative about a dark chapter in not only Baltimore’s history but in the legacy of disconnect between American citizens and those who are sworn to protect and serve them. This book is a must-read.”—Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore and Five Days“A masterful account of how police corruption takes root in a Baltimore plagued by crooked cops, oblivious leaders, and beleaguered citizens. The scandal at its heart is shocking in the sheer scope of its venality, and Fenton’s years of reporting lays it bare in novelistic, riveting detail. Here is a writer with a singular command of his story, spinning a dark tale so deftly that it’s impossible to look away.”—Evan Ratliff, author of The Mastermind“A tale of chaos and corruption, We Own This City is a meticulously researched account in which one of our foremost criminal justice reporters unwinds one of the biggest scandals in the history of American policing.”—Wesley Lowery, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement About the Author A longtime investigate reporter based in Baltimore, Justin Fenton was part of the Baltimore Sun’s Pulitzer Prize finalist staff recognized for their coverage of the Baltimore riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray. He is now a reporter at the Baltimore Banner, and We Own This City is his first book. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. Chapter OneKnockersThe letter arrived in the chambers of a federal judge in Baltimore in the summer of 2017. It had been sent from the McDowell Federal Correctional Institution, which was nestled in the middle of nowhere, West Virginia, more than six hours from Baltimore. On the front of the envelope, the inmate had written: “Special mail.”Umar Burley had written his letter on lined notebook paper, in neat, bouncy print, using tildes to top his T’s. Burley, inmate number 43787-037, was reaching out to the judge for a second time, begging for a court-appointed lawyer. His attorney had retired, and attempts to reach another had gone unanswered.“Could you imagine how hard it is to be here for a crime I didn’t commit and struggling to find clarity and justice on my own?” Burley wrote.Months earlier, Burley had been in the recreation hall of a federal prison in Oklahoma, awaiting transportation to McDowell, when someone called to him: “Little Baltimore! Little Baltimore! Did you see that?” News from home flashed across the television screen: A group of eight Baltimore police officers had been charged with stealing from citizens and lying about their cases. The officers had carried out their alleged crimes undeterred by the fact that the police department was at the time under a broad civil rights investigation following the death of a young Black man from injuries sustained while in police custody. The revelations were breathtaking, though not entirely unbelievable: For years, accusations of misconduct—from illegal strip searches to broken bones—had been leveled against city police. But many claims lacked hard proof and came from people with long rap sheets and every incentive to level a false accusation. Such toss-ups tended to go in favor of the cops. With the deck so stacked against them, most victims didn’t even bother to speak up. Often, they did have drugs or guns, and the fact that the cops lied about the details of the encounter or took some of the seized money for themselves, well, in Baltimore, it was a dirty game in which the ends justified the means.But now a wiretap case back home was shining a light on the culture of the force, and the federal prosecutors who brought the charges were looking for more victims. And Umar Burley had a story to tell.Burley’s story begins on the morning of April 28, 2010. Members of a plainclothes police squad had been summoned for an ad hoc roll call on the street. Their sergeant, running a little late, told them to stay put. But Detective Wayne Jenkins felt the itch. He told the others that the area around Belle Avenue, in Northwest Baltimore, was “hot” with reports of criminal activity.“Let’s go,” Jenkins said.You can tell some police officers to stand under a pole for ten hours. Check nine hours later, they’ll still be there. Send them to Greenmount Avenue and order them to walk up and down the boulevard, and they’ll pace until the soles of their shoes begin to wear thin. But others need to get into something. They want to sit in vacant houses peering through binoculars or chase suspects through alleys; they work ungodly amounts of overtime. These are the “10 percent” whom commanders in the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) rely on to get the job done.These are also the officers most likely to make up the plainclothes units known around town as “knockers” or “jumpout boys,” a reference to their aggressive tactics. Officers in plainclothes units often operate in the shadows of a police department. Their work is not to be confused with undercover operations, in which police officers assume a different identity and worm their way into a criminal organization. Plainclothes officers, as the description suggests, work in street clothes rather than uniforms. They drive unmarked vehicles. They are not typically tethered to specific posts or obligated to respond to 911 calls. Instead, they go out looking for illegal activity—people selling drugs or displaying bulges under clothing that could be guns—and they operate with a great deal of independence. They can let a suspect go if they think the suspect can lead them to bigger fish. Across the country, these plainclothes squads have often been where scandals are born, but police department leaders over the years have deemed them critical to the crime fight—they are the “Vikings” who go out into the field and return with a “bounty,” as one Baltimore chief would later put it.Jenkins seemed perpetually in motion, and his gung-ho attitude quickly won the white former marine early entry into the BPD’s most elite units. By 2010, less than seven years into his time on the force, Jenkins had worked his way into a new “violent repeat offender” squad, a handpicked group of officers whose charge was to go after Baltimore’s worst offenders. They would often be given names of elusive suspected criminals and allowed only thirty days to build their best case.They headed to Grove Park, a leafy neighborhood on the city/county border featuring single-family homes and a constellation of apartment buildings connected by paths and lined with cherry trees. As Baltimore neighborhoods go, it was decidedly different from the dense, abandoned row home neighborhoods closer to the city core, but it was not without crime. From their unmarked cars, the officers would later write in court paperwork, they spotted Umar Burley sitting in his Acura in the 3800 block of Parkview Avenue when another man walked up carrying what appeared to be cash and climbed in. “At this time, due to my training and expertise, I believed a narcotic transaction was possibly taking place,” Jenkins would write.Jenkins was riding with Detective Ryan Guinn, a half-Irish, half-Vietnamese cop whose appearance nevertheless prompted people in the neighborhoods where he worked to call him “Puerto Rican Yo.” Guinn reached for his radio.“Hey Sean,” he said in a low calm voice, addressing Sean Suiter, another member of the squad riding in a separate car. “We’ll try to stop this Accord.”“I got you. I’m with you,” said Suiter.The officers moved in for an arrest, with Jenkins and Guinn pulling in front of Burley’s car, and Suiter taking up the rear. Their emergency lights were activated, Jenkins wrote in the charging papers, and their badges were “clearly displayed.” He said the officers saw movement in the vehicle and ordered the men to show their hands. Guinn jumped out of the car and drew his gun, ordering Burley not to move. Burley maneuvered his car around the police vehicles and raced out of view.“Hey, we got one running,” Guinn radioed to the other officers, Jenkins’s voice audible in the background. “By Seton Park Apartments. Black Acura.”He called out the license plate: “One-Frank-Young-King-Zero-Eight.”The chase lasted less than a minute. Burley made it less than a mile down the road when the officers heard a loud crash. It sounded like a bomb going off, and when they arrived at the intersection of Belle and Gwynn Oak avenues, they saw water gushing out of a fire hydrant that had been struck. The front bumper had come away from the car; the hood was mangled. The officers wondered how badly the men inside were hurt, when suddenly they bolted out. Guinn gave chase after the passenger, Brent Matthews, while Jenkins and Suiter took on Burley.An onlooker called 911, relaying a scene that did not appear to involve police officers.“A car crash. Belle and Gwynn Oak. A guy—they’re running, trying to shoot each other!”“You said they’re trying to shoot each other?” the 911 operator asked.“Yes—the car’s into a fire hydrant, they jumped out, they started running, one with a gun.”Burley was caught by Suiter about fifty feet from the crash site. “Why did you pull off?” Suiter asked, according to Burley. “Why didn’t you just see what we wanted?”“All you had to do was put on your lights,” Burley responded.Guinn caught the passenger, and a struggle ensued. He was able to overpower the man and walked him back to the scene in cuffs.“The shit’s in the car,” Jenkins told Guinn.Along with a patrol officer, Suiter searched Burley’s vehicle and picked up a baggie on the floor containing thirty-two grams of heroin. Read more <div id="

  • Mr. Fenton combines a reporter’s ability to write sharp, compact sentences with a novelist’s sustained story telling. I read it through in one sitting. He gets the story right about how the measure of a cop’s seeming productivity can hide dark deeds, how departments reinforce the wrong kinds of activity. This is the case with the gun trace unit and Wayne Jenkins. He tells the back story, explaining why Baltimore erupted in riot after the death of Freddy Gray while in custody. He accurately explains how police/ community relations are built one interaction at a time.It’s also the story of good cops and how their integrity and skill uncovered the corruption. Political ambition facilitated the deterioration of the city and widened the breach.Without having been a cop himself Mr. Fenton shows himself to be intimately familiar with police work and its darker forces. A real Serpico.
  • As a lifelong Baltimore resident, I watched in both horror and fascination as details of the GTTF’s crimes were reported. The author takes a deep dive into the leader of this criminal enterprise, Sergeant Wayne Jenkins psyche and insanity as he runs roughshod over citizens civil rights and police department policies while amassing a personal fortune for himself. The author did an outstanding job of capturing the nonchalant arrogant attitude these crooks possesed. Very well written, excellent details and presented in a very factual non biased way. A real page turner that completely true, try beating this one Hollywood!
  • The facts of this story are astonishing — far reaching corruption let Baltimore City detectives form a criminal organization, robbing innocent citizens as well as preying on drug dealers, whose money they stole, and whose drugs they confiscated and resold. Blameless citizens died due to these detectives. Men were framed and sent to jail. Pursuit of these detectives by the Feds should have made this story a nail-biter. But it is told in the colorless voice of the mid-tier newspaper where the author works. It is difficult to keep track of who is who, the depictions of characters are so interchangeably bland. Even with extensive wiretaps, the author fails to put the reader at the scene. David Simon is said to have optioned this for a series, so the material may yet get the treatment it deserves.
  • Unrealisic and Heavily biased against cops. Everyhing they do is bad, and the criminals are consistently portrayed largely as victims of circumstance. It’s a terrible book totally devoid of any insights into the reasons for police corruption. The author may be a former cop, but he’s obviously a fuzzy thinking liberal. I was disgusted and never finished it.
  • You have to wonder how bad it really is in most police departments. I worked with local, state, and federal police for 13 years and never saw anything but professional conduct. But then I was living on the central coast of California, not Baltimore or New York. Drug trafficking has corrupted entire countries. There is just too much money involved. And in Mexico, it’s the silver or the lead. Take the money and look the other way, or die along with your family. Who can resist such an offer? The only way out is to legalize f-ing everything. A wise person once said that you cannot legislate morality. And that is true.
  • I came to this book as a former federal prosecutor in the Baltimore of the 1980’s. I had worked many narcotics cases with some extraordinary Baltimore City police officers. As described in this book, the depths to which that department sank after I left is appalling. Further, the story of the efforts to collect enough evidence of police corruption to secure convictions in federal court is riveting. This book shows that governmental agencies must always be aware that corruption in the ranks is possible. Every entity bears the responsibility for establishing ethics requirements and for teaching employees that they are bound by meaningful codes of conduct. As this work demonstrates, agencies must not turn a blind eye to obvious indicators of illegalities being committed by its people (even if those people appear on surface to be superior performers, as were some of the police in this sordid true story).
  • “We Own This City” was a very informative book written by someone who not only researched the subject but who lived through it. But as I read it I kept seeing how it could have been better. The “List of Characters” filed to include a lot of people who played a big part in the book. Maps and photographs of the involved area and photographs of those involved would have enhanced the narrative. And while the Freddie Gray incident was and is an important part of Baltimore’s history, it was dwelt on too much considering the subject matter. It needed to be mentioned, yes, but too much was written about it and it took away from the story of the GTTF. I would have liked to have read more about the involvement, or lack thereof, of the BPD command and the State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO) in what was going on with the GTTF. And while the book mentions more than once that SAO Mosby did not keep a “Do Not Call” list, she released it on 10/29/2021.
  • This is a gripping, almost novelistic account of a corrupt Baltimore police unit whose crimes and behaviour was genuinely jaw-dropping. If you’ve ever seen the fantastic TV series The Shield about the corrupt Strike Team, then you’ve got a pretty good idea – except this is all true.This is a shocking story well-told though, as Fenton is a brilliant writer. He gives you key context about the wider state of policing in Baltimore, including the Freddie Gray protests and riots in 2015, and offers an empathetic, even-handed look at everyone else caught up in the scandal – including victims, dealers, criminals, other police, and politicians.This book comes with a glowing quote from David Simon, creator of The Wire and writer of the single best piece of true-crime writing ever, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The quote, and comparisons between the 2 books, are well-earned. Fenton should be proud to have written a book that can stand toe-to-toe with that other towering piece of Baltimore reporting, and which acts as a damning indictment of the current state of American policing.
  • In a word, superb.An absolutely enthralling and absorbing read from start to finish. At times it feels like you’re reading a crime novel, as opposed to a real life story of corruption and the illegal activities of the GTTF. Brilliantly researched and put together by Justin Fenton, the upcoming TV show based on this book is a must see (hope it lives up to the source). Amazing work.
  • A forensic yet highly-readable account of what happens when the people who are entrusted to uphold the law take the law into their own hands and the consequences that arise from it.
  • Brilliant story that explores the background to the problems affecting Baltimore and its police force. This is a city that has long lived in the shadow of other cities and became an easy mark for corrupt individuals.
  • If you’re looking for a reason for the BLM movement, a reason why there’s so much civil unrest across America, why it’s a good time to dust off your Public Enemy records, it’s all within the pages of this book. Incredible. Should be mandatory reading for all police cadets.
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