For the last four years, Jessica Lussenhop has been reporting on the rise and autumn of the squad that is corrupt of police officers. Just she got a tremendously unexpected call from jail as she was doing her podcast series in the story.
I am standing in my”radio that is pandemic studio – aka the wardrobe in my own apartment – surrounded by hangers holding button-up shirts and dresses. I’m observing my mobile phone at nighttime. It’s propped up along with a suitcase sitting along with a synthetic bathtub, and I also’m keeping my microphone and recorder during the prepared.
As soon as the phone rings, I put the call on speaker and hear a robotic, pre-recorded female sound: “there is a call that is prepaid. You shall not be charged because of this call. This call is from…”
A vocals that is peoples in: “Wayne Jenkins.”
“…an inmate in a jail that is federal” the robot finishes.
Former Baltimore Police Department Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, currently inmate quantity 62928-037 at a jail that is federal Kentucky, is exactly in danger. Until this time, I’d just heard Jenkins on secretly taped FBI tracks, wiretapped phone calls, human anatomy digital camera footage and at the hearing in June 2018 whenever a judge that is federal him to 25 years in prison. It had been surreal hearing his voice, speaking with me.
I’ve been reporting on Jenkins, and the elite Gun Trace Task Force squad he once led, for pretty much four years. He and six users of the device now stay in federal prison for crimes conspiracy that is including racketeering and robbery, all committed underneath the guise of genuine police work.
They stole drugs and money, offered seized narcotics and weapons right back regarding the street, planted proof on people, even committed home invasions.
Over time, we published to any or all among these previous officers in prison many times, asking them to help me realize their crimes being breathtaking. My hope – maybe a naive one – had been that hearing one of these simple guys speak candidly regarding how he crossed up to the side that is dark assist the public better understand the casual, day-to-day corruption that may happen in policing. I hoped it may spur a far more conversation that is truthful what it does take to reform and sometimes even redefine what it means to be always a cop in the US.
Of all of the seven men, anyone that is last thought would ever consent to an meeting had been Jenkins, the dropped “golden kid” regarding the Baltimore Police Department. Since the leader regarding the device, he received the jail sentence that is longest while the federal authorities whom prosecuted the squad viewed him as the many culpable member. Into the years since his arrest, he’d never ever offered a interview that is general public.
And yet, right here our company is, me in my wardrobe “studio” and him at the front end of the general line of 20 to 30 other inmates, all awaiting their switch on the prison phone. I’ve no basic concept exactly what he would like to say, or why after four years, he is breaking his silence.
“Everything we let you know, i am going to have a polygraph,” Jenkins says close to the start of that call that is first. “I’m in prison for 25 years, there is no reason to lie.”
On 1 March, 2017, Sergeant Wayne Jenkins and six of their subordinate officers through the Gun Trace Task Force stepped to the Baltimore Police Department’s Internal Affairs building, thinking these were here to clear up a small complaint of a vehicle that is damaged.
Ahead of this, they would been lauded as some of the weapon cops which can be well in the city – seizing a large number of unlawful firearms each month, and demonstrating a “a work ethic that is beyond reproach”, within the terms of just one supervisor. Jenkins was a celebrity that is rising the department, as a result of his ability to regularly generate huge seizures of drugs and firearms.
However when the officers exited the elevators in the building’s second flooring, an FBI came across them SWAT group. All seven users had been quickly in handcuffs.
It turned out that federal agents had the machine under surveillance for months. Utilizing wiretaps and hidden recording devices, that they had accumulated quite a lot of evidence showing the officers had been citizens that are robbing filing for hundreds of hours of overtime they never worked, stealing drugs and even attempting to sell unlawful firearms back on the streets.
Five associated with former officers, including Jenkins, pleaded bad. But two pronounced their innocence and went to trial. It had been here that the level that is filled with officers’ misconduct became public.
In January 2018, a list that is long of took the stand – a lot of whom had ties towards the medication trade – and told harrowing tales of how they had been robbed by the officers during car stops and searches of the homes. Some attempted to grumble, but had been ignored. Shawn Whiting, a person whose home had been robbed of $16,000 and a kilo-and-a-half of heroin, testified which he knew that as being a drug dealer, his term counted for notably less than the officers’.
“we ain’t have a trial since the undeniable fact that is simple I knew [the court] would believe them over top of me,” he told the jury.
Several of the previous officers additionally took the stand – now wearing prison jumpsuits as opposed to uniforms – and detailed the tactics motivated by their frontrunner, Jenkins. They testified he told them to carry BB firearms to grow that he frequently took large levels of drugs off of suspects without submitting them to the police evidence room should they ever injured or killed an unarmed person. Two officers stated he talked freely about doing house invasions on high-level medication dealers he hoped they would have stashed inside their homes that he called “monsters”, because of the quantity of drugs and cash.
Very witnesses that are surprising a man named Donald Stepp, a bail bondsman, who revealed that he’d been selling drugs Jenkins brought him from work. He said together, they’d offered about $ well worth that is 1m of.
“It in fact was a front side for a enterprise that is unlawful” Stepp said for the Gun Trace Task Force. “It had been obvious in my experience, once I’m using millions of dollars worth of drugs through the Baltimore Police Department and selling them, that… this is not a standard police division.”
Stepp testified that the arrangement was so profitable, he stuck in December 2017 with it for a long time before getting arrested himself.
“I’m right here due to greed,” he stated. “It is that facile.”