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 city
“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, author of Homicide, co-author of The Corner, and creator of The Wire
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 result was 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.