Two Baltimore plainclothes police detectives were convicted Monday of racketeering, robbery and fraud in a trial involving a wide range of criminal activities by an elite police unit charged with reducing the number of illegal guns on that city's streets.
Detectives Daniel Hersl, 48, and Marcus Taylor, 31, were members of the Gun Trace Task Force. They were convicted with the help of testimony by four former members of the unit.
As The Washington Post reports:
"Over two weeks in federal court, four former members of the once-lauded unit who earlier pleaded guilty took the stand in their new prison uniforms and admitted crimes denied for years during internal investigations and lawsuits. The cops stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, drugs, guns, and luxury accessories while pretending to be seizing the goods for legitimate enforcement objectives. They concocted reasons to chase and search suspects or enter houses without warrants to sift through goods they wanted. They covered up their involvement in car crashes when rogue pursuits went bad."
Two other former officers who had pleaded guilty to corruption charges did not testify.
Prosecutors also relied on the testimony of some of the officers' victims, "many self-described dealers," reports the Post, as well as wiretapped conversations of the officers themselves discussing, for example, their plans for sharing cash they had stolen.
The scandal leaves Baltimore officials with the job of determining whether corruption within police ranks has been rooted out, or if that job is just beginning. The Baltimore Sun reports that a new anti-corruption team is investigating at least 10 other officers suspected of being involved with the disgraced gun unit.
Federal scrutiny of the Baltimore Police Department came in the aftermath of the 2015 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of injuries while in police custody.
The Associated Press reports that the convictions could taint all of the cases of which the gun unit was involved:
"Even public defenders, who routinely question police testimony, have been shocked by the extreme revelations exposed at the trial, saying there could be a few thousand tainted cases stretching back to 2008. So far, roughly 125 cases involving the eight indicted Baltimore law enforcers have been dropped."
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