The Unchecked Power of BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force

Defending the Indefensible: Abuse of Power Charges

When members of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) go to trial next week, federal prosecutors will be chasing a ghost.  Not just because the unit has since been dissolved,

Hersl bike
“Roguish” Danny Hersl 

but even when operable, members seemed to come and go with little to no oversight or accountability – by anyone. Not for days, weeks or months, but years.

 

Mysteriously, the group has enjoyed having “elite” nomenclature attached to it. Not just from the usual P.R. spin given by the department, but from The Sun publication and reporters using social media platforms.

Police officers, much like bass players in a rock band have some inexplicable mystical powers to render some men awestruck – especially those in the news business.  Embedded with officers during a “ride-along” or joining the boys for a beer at the local cop bar is enough at times to give a school girl crush to a hardened journalist. Not only this, juries award those in uniform additional consideration for the risks they willingly assume to protect us in our most vulnerable times.

It will not be a easy feat to convince a jury that a few officers were able to do so much without no one within the department noticing.  The department’s Internal Affairs didn’t catch all the missing money.  The Office of Professional Responsibility didn’t notice the rigged overtime reports.  No lieutenant or major was suspicious that when officers said they were working, they were home or even out of the country.

It doesn’t even appear that anyone has yet asked whether this task force was unique in its ability to effortlessly inflate their paychecks by claiming money for work and overtime that was not due them. There are other specialized units within the department that have not been cleared of that temptation.  One would expect that the BPD would begin to check the power wielded by similar units and assure the public that accountability is a priority.

Specialized units
Screenshot BPD’s website on 1/28/2018

 Gun Trace Task Force Members have already plead guilty to:

  • Turning off body worn cameras before illegally stopping and robbing citizens.
  • Using cell phones to create a video of “discovering cash” only after they pocketed after money was stolen.
  • Obtaining search warrants based on surveillance and observations that never occurred.
  • Committing dozens of robberies on the street, burglarizing homes, and storage units.
  • Stopping law abiding citizens, robbing them and letting them go.
  • Going on vacation but saying they were at work.

Vacation on taxpayers

At its height in 2010, the task force boasted 14 members and was a coordinated effort with support of BPD, Maryland State Police and Baltimore County Police as well as parole officers and worked in conjunction with a gun offender registry.

Established under Fred Bealefeld’s reign as commissioner, the GTTF unit remained a fixture with the next commissioner Anthony Batts (Sept 2012-July 2015) and also  with current commissioner Kevin Davis.

Boasting in newsletter
Above, The Department holding the GTTF up as a model for the rest of the BPD to follow while it was thick in the middle of a corruption investigation. The newsletter was dated October 2016. Four months later, a Grand Jury would indict all officers.

 

Screenshot (171)
Marilyn Mosby’s office is one source of multiple leaks that alerted GTTF that the feds were at the door.  Nonetheless, their criminal activities persisted, with little concern over consequences. Her office is not spared culpability at some point before the feds’ investigation.

 

It would be a magic act if the eight BPD officers listed in the indictment were the only ones with dirty hands.  Six officers have plead guilty, 2 are awaiting trial, and one Philadelphia police officer (former BPD) Eric Snell was indicted in Nov. 2017.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has maintained that the corruption investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department is ongoing.

Davis has decried the criminal activities. At times along the way, he has referred to the officers as “a few bad apples.”  He has called the media attention to the wanton disrespect for the badge and what it represents nothing short of a “scandal.”

In doing so, it’s not surprising that not only has he kept his job, but he hasn’t seen fit to fire anyone. The officers have all resigned.

Two Changes Davis Has Made :

1. Put plainclothes officers back into uniform.

Davis decries plainclothes mentality and moves more to uniform March 8 2017.

Davis’ reorganizes by bolstering plainclothes and reversing Batts shift to more uniformed patrol July 2015.

2.  Demoted Chief Sean Miller to Lieutenant (March 6, 2017)

Sean Miller
 Lt. Sean Miller

The list of people who if they didn’t know what was going on, should have is long. Every lieutenant and majors who was tasked with overseeing the work of these 8 officers should be unceremoniously dismissed.  This includes tactical units and patrol. In addition, the Internal Affairs Department overseen by Chief Rodney Hill should be entirely revamped.  When the feds can see from a far what’s going on under their noses, the department has revealed itself to be inept.

Davis himself has the sole power to dismiss any or all of them, without hesitation.

  • Lt. Sean Miller
  • Chief Rodney Hill
  • Deputy Commissioner Dean M. Palmere

 

 

Comments appreciated. Confidentially assured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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