Baltimore’s corrupt police officers: The faces behind the scandal

The officers at the centre of the scandal and those trying to piece a city’s trust in its law enforcement back together.

Three years after an historic uprising in Baltimore over police abuse, Fault Lines went to Baltimore to explore the institutional forces that allowed a corrupt unit of plain-clothes detectives to rob and steal with impunity for at least a decade.

These are the faces behind the investigation The Gang Within: A Baltimore Police Scandal, revealing how this latest scandal places Baltimore at the centre of a national debate over how and whether police departments can be held accountable for the actions of their own officers.

Rodney Hill, former head of the Baltimore Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division

Rodney Hill, head of the Internal Affairs Division inside the Baltimore Police Department from 2013 until early 2018 [Al Jazeera]

In the years before the FBI arrested members of a corrupt unit of Baltimore police detectives, Rodney Hill says Internal Affairs had received a “good number” of citizen complaints against the corrupt officers.

In fact, in 2014, Hill says Internal Affairs investigated the unit’s leader, Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, and recommended that Jenkins be demoted. But high-ranking officials inside the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) protected Jenkins.

“There were a couple times where I think it got a little touchy because there were people going, ‘Come on, man, why are you guys messing with him?'” says Hill. 

Wayne Jenkins, ex-police sergeant, leading the Gun Trace Task Force 

Sergeant Wayne Jenkins was a decorated leader of the corrupt plain-clothes police unit in Baltimore whose detectives robbed residents with impunity for at least a decade. [Al Jazeera]

Sergeant Wayne Jenkins beat at least one Internal Affairs investigation and remained on the streets with the help of high-ranking officials in the department who wanted Jenkins to continue his aggressive tactics.

The disgraced sergeant is now serving a 25-year sentence in a federal prison in Arizona.

Andre Crowder, arrested and allegedly robbed by Jenkins

Andre Crowder says Sgt Wayne Jenkins robbed his home in late 2016. [Al Jazeera]

Andre Crowder went to jail for three days awaiting bail after Sgt. Jenkins arrested him on gun charges that were later dropped.

Those three days would also be the final three days of his three-year-old son Ahmeer’s life.

“I don’t want to blame the situation on the police because that had nothing to do with my son’s health. But that hindered me from spending those last moments with him. I’ve lost time that I can’t get back.”

Kevin Davis, former BPD commissioner

Kevin Davis took over a Baltimore Police Department in crisis shortly after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015 [Al Jazeera]

Since he took over the BPD in 2015, Kevin Davis has focused on reforms at Internal Affairs, seeking to hold officers accountable for misconduct.

Davis says he fired 22 officers in 2016 – the same year that the corrupt sergeant, Wayne Jenkins, took over a celebrated plain-clothes gun squad and committed some of its worst crimes.

When asked whether he should have known about the many complaints against Jenkins, Davis responded: “I’m going to shy away from – the questions seem like they’re getting into a lot of hindsight.”

Jemell Rayam, former Baltimore police detective

Detective Jemell Rayam pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to rob Baltimore residents dating back to 2009 [Al Jazeera]

FBI wiretaps recorded Detective Jemell Rayam bragging about the amount of overtime pay he and his colleagues had stolen from the city.

“But G, like I said, you know, let’s enjoy it now, because all good things come to an end.”

In 2017, Rayam and several other officers were arrested.

Gary Brown, robbed by Rayam in 2009

Gary Brown was robbed on the side of the road by Detective Jemell Rayam, one of Baltimore’s most corrupt officers, in 2009 [Al Jazeera]

A leaked Internal Affairs investigation reveals that the police department put Rayam back on the street after he was caught lying about robbing Gary Brown of money he was on the way to the bank to deposit.

Rayam stayed on the street for nearly a decade, robbing with impunity, until the FBI arrested him in 2017.

That’s when Brown saw the officer’s face on the news. “I went to Internal Affairs and told you they took my money 10 years ago and you all are just getting him?”

Jill Carter, state senator, Maryland

Jill Carter is a state senator in Maryland pushing for more transparency and oversight of Baltimore’s Internal Affairs division [Al Jazeera]

Jill Carter is a state senator in Maryland and a leader in legislative efforts to create more transparency and oversight of Baltimore’s Internal Affairs division.

Maryland is one of 23 states where police investigate their own officers behind closed doors.

“Officers are actually public servants, they have the public trust, and they are there to protect and serve the public,” says Jill Carter.

“And so, when they violate the public or are accused of violating the public, it’s something the public should know.”

Josh Insley, Baltimore civil rights lawyer

Josh Insley is a civil rights lawyer in Baltimore, who received a confidential Internal Affairs file from a whistle-blower [Al Jazeera]

The Internal Affairs file handed to Josh Insley by a whistle-blower revealed that Detective Jemell Rayam had been caught lying about a robbery in 2009, but that the police department put Rayam back on the street for almost a decade.

“It’s like getting caught tiptoeing out of the window with the mask and the bag with the dollar sign on it out of the crime scene, and that’s still not enough. Then, what is? You know what, getting indicted by the feds. That is. That’s the only stopgap, is to be so notorious that the actual US Attorney’s Office has to come in and indict you off the street.”

Editor’s note, January 17, 2020: This article has been updated to reflect developments in the case: Andre Crowder’s lawsuit against Sgt. Jenkins was withdrawn.

Source: Al Jazeera

More from Features
Most Read