Justin Fenton Discusses His Book, “We Own This City” During Leadership Café Hosted by Goucher College and Greater Baltimore Committee

A joint drug investigation between Baltimore County Police Department and Harford County Sherriff’s Department uncovered evidence that eventually led to a wider federal investigation that uncovered extensive crime and corruption in the Baltimore Police Department’s now disbanded Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).

That was just one of the startling facts that came to light while covering the trial and conducting research that resulted in the publication of the book “We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption,” author Justin Fenton said during the Leadership Café event, hosted on March 1 by Goucher College and the Greater Baltimore Committee.

The federal investigation, which uncovered a campaign of robbery and extortion by members of the GTTF, resulted in two Baltimore Police officers being convicted and six other pleading guilty in 2017 and 2018.

Even as a police reporter and investigative reporter, Fenton said he found the charges and details of the crimes when they were unveiled by federal prosecutors to be “very shocking.”

“What we saw is that these officers were give too much latitude to do what they wanted to,” Fenton said.

Another fact that came to light in interviews while researching the book, Fenton said, is that the GTTF’s “hyper-aggressive tactics,” which included indiscriminately pulling over cars driven by people of color to hopefully find drugs or guns, contributed to the wide-spread distrust of police in high-crime neighborhoods where most residents fear the police – and crime.

Police complaint records obtained under Maryland’s new Anton’s Law, which allows the public access to police complaint records, showed that one of the officers assigned to the GTTF had an extensive record of complaints filed against him and the department had settled “many lawsuits” involving him, Fenton said. Everyone in the police department should have known about the officer, Fenton said, but instead the department kept putting him back on the street.

Overall, the book “tries to get at who knew and why people didn’t know” about the illegal activities of the GTTF, Fenton said.