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Publisher's Summary

The astonishing true story of "one of the most startling police corruption scandals in a generation" (The New York Times), from the Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter who exposed a gang of criminal cops and their years-long plunder of an American city.

"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, author of Homicide, coauthor of The Corner, and creator of The Wire)

Baltimore, 2015. Riots are erupting across the city as citizens demand justice for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who has died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody. Drug and violent crime are surging, and Baltimore will reach its highest murder count in more than two decades: 342 homicides in a single year, in a city of just 600,000 people. Facing pressure from the mayor’s office - as well as a federal investigation of the department over Gray’s death - Baltimore police commanders turn to a rank-and-file hero, Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, and his elite plainclothes unit, the Gun Trace Task Force, to help get guns and drugs off the street.

But behind these new efforts, a criminal conspiracy of unprecedented scale was unfolding within the police department. Entrusted with fixing the city’s drug and gun crisis, Jenkins chose to exploit it instead. With other members of the empowered Gun Trace Task Force, Jenkins stole from Baltimore’s citizens - skimming from drug busts, pocketing thousands in cash found in private homes, and planting fake evidence to throw Internal Affairs off their scent. Their brazen crime spree would go unchecked for years. The results were countless wrongful convictions, the death of an innocent civilian, and the mysterious death of one cop who was shot in the head, killed just a day before he was scheduled to testify against the unit.

In this urgent book, award-winning investigative journalist Justin Fenton distills hundreds of interviews, thousands of court documents, and countless hours of video footage to present the definitive account of the entire scandal. The result is an astounding, riveting feat of reportage about a rogue police unit, the city they held hostage, and the ongoing struggle between American law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve.

©2021 Justin Fenton (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“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)

“Baltimore’s grim realities have been mined by talented writers like D. Watkins, Wes Moore, and, most famously, celebrated author and TV producer David Simon, whose books and television series - Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood and The Wire - deftly illuminated Charm City’s complex web of problems. One could be excused for wondering whether there is any more to say about Baltimore and crime. But the gripping new book We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption puts that concern to rest.” (The Washington Post)

“A standout examination of the failures of policing, laid out in context with greater systemic failures.... We Own This City is a sobering and necessary account of one dramatic way that trust was destroyed, but it is as much a damning indictment of how that destruction grew out of a mixture of negligence, incompetence and hubris.” (The Wall Street Journal)

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What listeners say about We Own This City

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Excellent treatment of complicated case

Fenton demonstrates his intimate knowledge of the incidents and characters, unravelling a very nuanced modern story of corruption. One gets the sense that there will be a sequel as this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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This is a great story!!

This is an awesome story and likely the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I can't wait to see the HBO mini-series!!!

1 person found this helpful

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Hard to Follow

Easy to get the jist but hard to follow all the details of every single police encounter (who is who perpetrators etc.) - throughout the story.... it all comes together in the end.

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Fenton Uncovers the Horrors of GTTF

Justin Fenton does a remarkable job revealing the horrors inflicted by the GTTF in Baltimore. Now if we just knew the whole truth of all the officers involved I believe we would be truly shocked. How can the PD and the prosecutor's office let this go on and on and on without listening to the citizens and the defense attorneys who warned and continue to warn.

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Riveting

This is a “can’t quit listening “ work. The investigative work of the author coupled with the brilliant interpretative performance of the narrator kept my rapt attention from beginning to end.

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Sad that there are unlawful police, sad that is overlooked and allowed

I was unaware of this story, it is sad that police are allowed to act this way and say times even treated like heroes. I’m glad these guys got caught and hope good cops keep up their efforts!

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Well Researched and Written

My only problem is I have no idea how much of it is actually true. The author appears to give a relatively balanced portrayal of both the officers and the criminals in this book. However ...

The author gave accounts of two stories I know a lot about and both were wildly inaccurate to the point of willful distortion. In the case of the Michael Brown shooting he does nothing to dispel and even implies the "hands up, don't shoot" lie is correct. He does cite that the Obama Justice Department refused to prosecute but doesn't say why. Why is because several African American witnesses told police the 300 pound Brown charged police officer Wilson and tempted to take his gun. This was backed up by Wilson's own testimony AND physical and DNA evidence.

As to the Eric Garner case, again the author is slim with the facts implying just another black man killed by cops with no one bothering to prosecute the guilty party. The 400 pound Garner was outside a minority-owned business selling untaxed cigarettes (from North Carolina most likely) thus undercutting the store owner being forced by New York City to sell heavily taxed cigarettes. So what are police supposed to do in this case? Garner refused to stop the illegal activity and refused to be taken into custody. Should the police ignore dudes hanging out on the street selling illegal drugs (yes untaxed cigarettes do meet this definition.)?

As a side note I was struck how "white flight" was considered to be bad. How come removing racist white people from a neighborhood is so deleterious? Of course it isn't unless accompanied by black flight, middle class blacks moving out as well. This obviously happened. The author cites the case of a big time drug dealer who moved out to Westminster, MD. Check a map and you will find Westminster, MD is nowhere near Baltimore.

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A True Story of "Every City, USA".

Being a "Home Grown Baltimorean", it's a sad story", and unfortunately, it's one that I see as never ending. I am writing this review sitting outside the home I was born in right on the edge west Baltimore, where city meets county. My parents were only 1 of 2 families who did not succumb to the "White Flight" of the early 1970's on our block. I am a few blocks from the end rt.70 that was to link up to the "highway to nowhere", which butts up to the beautiful and infamous "Leakin Park". I don't understand why my city continually votes for "Home Grown" politicians, regardless of color, when it's so obvious that these individuals are bred to perpetuate more of the same. I was 10 y.o during the riots of 1968 and 58 y.o during the riots of 2015. This story is about any city and any town in the country; how different our country is, and how so much of it remains the same as 1968.

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Baltimore resident responds

I live in Fells Point, a historic neighborhood in Baltimore. I have been involved in non-profit groups that worked in Baltimore’s poor neighborhoods. I’ve known about BPD targeting black residents, and unfortunately, have been too naive about this incredible corruption. Even after knowing about the task force, this book has given me a much better understanding of the extent. The BPD has a long way to go to restore the trust that Baltimore’s citizens need to feel good about the city. Mr. Fenton deserves all the praise and awards that may come his way. His courage and research is well woven through the stories herein. Thank you.

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Great listen

Such a crazy story of police corruption in a wonderful town. I listened with rapt attention, having heard this story unfold over months. Great to hear the full story in book form.