Cops and Robbers

In 2016, in the midst of unrelenting violence in the city, the Baltimore Police Department brought together a group of officers called the Gun Trace Task Force and set them loose to get guns off the street. The leader of the group was Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, a veteran of aggressive plainclothes units who was viewed as one of the department’s top assets. But for years, he and several other plainclothes officers had been committing crimes. Jenkins had participated in the planting of evidence and in the robberies of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also targeted drug dealers, stealing their supplies, and bringing them to a crooked bail bondsman to be resold.

What kind of warning signs were ignored, and to what extent was Jenkins’ behavior perfectly masked by the mix of autonomy his job afforded him, and the vulnerability of his victims? This in-depth series uses thousands of pages of court records, dozens of body camera videos, and hundreds of emails and restricted files to explore the roots of Jenkins’ misconduct and rise through the agency. The stories delve into how the squad carried out their crimes—and got away with them for so long.

More than 50 people, including current and former police officers, prosecuters, defense attorneys, and victims, were interviewed. The Sun looks at the culture of plainclothes units in Baltimore, and the way forward.