Washington (AFP) – A police officer described as perhaps the most corrupt in the history of the Baltimore police department was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday.
Sergeant Wayne Jenkins headed an elite unit known as the Gun Trace Task Force that was responsible for stunning amounts of abuse in the troubled US city.
Their job was to take illegal guns off the street. Instead, the Task Force resold weapons they stole, robbed drug dealers and planted false evidence.
US District Judge Catherine Blake sentenced Jenkins to 25 years in prison — five years less than the maximum allowed under his plea agreement, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The newspaper quoted Assistant US Attorney Leo Wise as telling the judge that Jenkins operated his unit “like a criminal gang” and had done “immeasurable” harm.
A sobbing Jenkins apologized to the court, the Sun said, saying he had made “so many mistakes.”
“I know it’s my fault. I deserve to be punished and I deserve to go to jail,” said Jenkins, described by the newspaper as “perhaps the most corrupt officer uncovered in Baltimore Police Department history.”
All of the victims of the Gun Trace Task Force were black men, many of them drug dealers who the corrupt police officers knew could not go to the authorities to complain.
Jenkins is among six police officers who pleaded guilty in the case.
During the trial of two other officers, the court heard an account of how members of the Task Force broke into a safe in a suspected drug dealer’s home containing $200,000 in cash.
They removed $100,000, put $100,000 back inside and then filmed themselves opening up the safe as if for the first time.
Mistrust of the police is already deep in Baltimore, which is plagued by high crime, drugs and poverty.
With 343 homicides in 2017, Baltimore had the highest murder rate per capita in the country and the city is still recovering from riots that broke out in 2015 after the death in police custody of a young black man, Freddie Gray.