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“How Will We Know…That the Baltimore Police Department Has Turned a Corner?”

We Own This City–written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Justin Fenton and the basis for David Simon’s HBO miniseries–tells the shocking, true story of a massive police corruption scandal. Baltimore had been struggling with high rates of violent crime for decades when, in 2007, the police department established the Gun Trace Task Force, a unit of plain-clothed police officers whose mandate was to go after gun traffickers by conducting sophisticated investigations. Instead, the officers mainly patrolled the streets and stopped people, often without sufficient cause. They abused their power to steal money, to steal drugs that they sometimes resold, to plant evidence, and to lie about their activities, which were in many instances unconstitutional. The story broke in 2017, two years after the murder of Freddie Gray, another tragedy that rocked the city.

In this episode, Julie and Eve talk to Justin about what the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal reveals about the war on drugs, police corruption, the relationship between politics and policing, the struggles between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and the suffering of those communities.

Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner, a new nonprofit dedicated to supporting local journalism. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. He was part of the Pulitzer Prize finalist team for the coverage of the death of Freddie Gray and was a two-time finalist for the National Livingston Award for Young Journalists. He is the author of We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption, as well as a consultant on the HBO TV series adaptation of the same name.

We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption



“A work of journalism that not only chronicles the rise and fall of a corrupt police unit but can stand as the inevitable coda to the half-century of disaster that is the American drug war.” —David Simon

“Fenton populates his narrative with a network of officers, informants and street dealers, all with different motivations and interests. . . . The overall effect is to capture the disorienting, churning quality of a city where the good guys and bad guys aren’t easily distinguished. . . . [Fenton] shows how, in our zeal to combat crime, we have allowed institutions to produce it.” The New York Times Book Review

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