Freelance writer Woods and Baltimore reporter Soderberg chronicle the corruption within the Baltimore PD’s Gun Trace Task Force in their fascinating, chilling debut. In 2015, after Freddie Gray, a black suspect, died in police custody and the city’s top prosecutor brought charges against six officers involved in the case, the police decided to back off from pursuing suspected criminals, fearful they could get in trouble if another arrest went awry. The murder rate soon rose significantly, and a new police commissioner created plainclothes squads to aggressively combat the violence. Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, the head of one such squad, the GTTF, succeeded in persuading his subordinates to engage in extortion, fraud, robbery, drug dealing, and planting evidence. His modus operandi was simple: target criminals, whose innocence and claims of being robbed wouldn’t be believed. Meanwhile, Jenkins and his squad were receiving commendations from the Baltimore PD for their rising number of convictions. Finally, in 2017, through the efforts of Ivan Bates and other defense attorneys representing Jenkins’s victims, Jenkins and the six other cops on his squad were indicted on federal racketeering charges. The authors draw extensively on such sources as trial transcripts, interviews, and official documents, and verbatim conversations taken from recordings such as wiretaps lend immediacy. True crime aficionados won’t want to miss this engrossing exposé. Agent: Brandi Bowles, United Talent Agency. (July)
"A sobering and unflinching story of corruption, a city plagued by poor leadership, and a citizenry that has always deserved better....A reminder that corruption is the result of people making choices to benefit themselves at the expenses of the general public. It is an important and necessary read.” DeRay McKesson, author of On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope
"'The Wire' is a Mother Goose fairytale compared to stories revealed by Soderberg and Woods. Baltimore is a favorite punching bag of reactionaries who wouldn't know their way around Fells Point. If you really want to understand both the horror and hope in this remarkable city, you need to read 'I Got A Monster'" Dave Zirin, The Nation
“I Got a Monster tells a vivid story that cuts through the turbulent events that have shaken Baltimore in recent years. In doing so, it shows everything that is wrong with policing in the inner cities of America.” Ioan Grillo, Author of El Narco and Gangster Warlords
"At once a page-turning account of the dramatic rise and fall of a criminal enterprise disguised as a police squad and a portrait of a city struggling against entrenched corruption. Woods and Soderberg's meticulous, gripping narrative moves from high-end waterfront condos to the vacant rowhouses of West Baltimore to police headquarters as it unspools a story of extravagant criminality, greed, and betrayal. Rachel Monroe, author of Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime and Obsession
"A masterpiece of reporting" Laura Wexler, author Fire in a Canebrake
"Riveting, propulsive, and illuminating. Woods and Soderberg take readers deep inside the world of police corruption. With exhaustive reporting, trenchant analysis, and lyrical storytelling, this is literary journalism at its best." Wil S. Hylton, author of Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II.
"A deeply researched and artfully written look at the blighted and benighted city of Baltimore, as seen through the dismal prism of the last decade. No matter if you’re a police drama enthusiast or an activist against racism and law enforcement corruption, this is a book for you. Think The Wire, only all true and with footnotes."
Mike Sager, author of The Devil and John Holmes, contributing editor to Esquire.
Journalists Woods and Soderberg offer a scathing account of the corrupt Baltimore Police plainclothes unit Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF). The authors masterfully demonstrate how the opioid crisis and protests following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in police custody provided cover for corrupt cops. When a new Baltimore police commissioner created a "war room" to generate more gun arrests, Wayne Jenkins, head of GTTF, and his crew ran wild, robbing drug dealers, injuring bystanders, and manipulating police body and surveillance cameras to cover their tracks. Only the federal government, aided by a whistleblower, aggressive defense attorneys, and reluctant drug dealers, brought them down. Relying on federal trial transcripts, FBI surveillance tapes, and extensive interviews with major players, the authors present a meticulously researched tale of greed, public pressure, and absolute power. VERDICT Fans of The Wire, The Shield, and Training Day will devour, as will readers of true crime and students of urban affairs and public policy.—Harry Charles, St. Louis
Two Baltimore journalists reveal the nearly unbelievable tales of widespread police corruption in a squad whose leader ran it “like a war machine.”
Woods and Soderberg meticulously reveal a group within the Baltimore Police Department that became a criminal enterprise all its own. Known as the Gun Trace Task Force, its mission revolved around confiscating illegal weapons and narcotics and arresting the perpetrators. The authors begin with the egregiously corrupt head of GTTF, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, who operated with near immunity. “For years,” write the authors, “high-ranking allies covered for Jenkins, helping him escape scrutiny coming from what they considered minor infractions.” However, as they demonstrate, most of Jenkins’ infractions were hardly minor, and in 2017, he was “indicted on federal racketeering charges.” The members of GTTF revolved in and out according to who applied and who was approved by either Jenkins or his superiors. Though the authors focus primarily on Jenkins and the eight other GTTF members, they also weave in secondary characters (the cast of characters at the beginning is useful), including a former BPD officer who moved to the force in Philadelphia, drug dealers who served as “collaborators,” families who were robbed and or terrorized by GTTF members, federal prosecutors, a Baltimore prosecutor, and defense lawyers. Dozens of other characters populate the narrative, too, sometimes in circumstances that might cause readers to question their utility. A few of the major characters emerge as the heroes within this massive scandal. Foremost is Ivan Bates, a defense lawyer who represented some of the victims of GTTF and was determined to bring down Jenkins and his thugs. Though racial bias is not an overriding theme of the text, it is nonetheless always in the background. Eventually, justice was served, at least in the form of lengthy jail sentences, but certain wounds will never heal.
Few readers will close this page-turner doubting that the GTTF was anything but the most corrupt police group in the U.S. (16-page color photo insert)