• We Own This City

  • A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption
  • By: Justin Fenton
  • Narrated by: Dion Graham
  • Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (609 ratings)

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We Own This City

By: Justin Fenton
Narrated by: Dion Graham
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Publisher's Summary

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • 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 yearslong plunder of an American city

NOW AN HBO SERIES FROM THE WIRE CREATOR DAVID SIMON AND GEORGE PELECANOS

“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

Baltimore, 2015. Riots are erupting across the city as citizens demand justice for Freddie Gray, a twenty-five-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)

“Fenton tells a story of bad people and bad attitudes.... His book reveals the way systemic discrimination operates, whom it affects and how it is sustained. His narrative is brisk and engaging.” (London Review of Books)

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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.

8 people 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.

3 people found this helpful

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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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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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Great story/inconsistent narration

Enjoyed the story; nothing touches Homicide by David Simon re: BPD culture, but this is still a quality tale worth a listen.

Frustrated beyond measure with the narration; inconsistent volume and pacing led to constant replays and volume adjustment to hear him fully. Detracted from the story and overall experience with the book.

1 person found this helpful

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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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It's a shame

It has been said by Black People for as long as police came to be that these things happen, but since it happens in throwaway neighborhoods people don't care. Not even the so called justice system.

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Very good? Maybe

My 4 star ratings are based on an assumption that it is at least largely true and does not twist narratives or omit exculpatory evidence, but the author did work for the Sun for 17 years. The Sun is far from the worst major media, but it is still part of the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party, and I take with a giant box of salt anything that comes from there. The major media have done pretty much what this book claims the BPD did to now make it almost impossible for any local jury to believe anything they say. Similarly, the major media have spent decades despoiling public trust by its dishonesty and bias. So for now, I'm keeping an open mind about how much this book can be relied on as having reported the issues fully and honestly.

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Masterpiece

there’s alot in this book that hits me personally. i am a major justin fenton fan, if reporters can have fans, and i was excited to read this when i saw he wrote it. i’m a fan of him as a reporter due to his willingness to be IN the story. he will go to ground zero (as he did the day of the freddie grey unrest as stated in this book) to be able to give this city the real story and not just a clickbait title and information taken from other articles. he’s tapped in and loves baltimore. and all of that reflects in this book. it’s very detailed and creates the entire environment of the police, the city politicians and the streets as a picture in your head to watch like it’s a movie. great read, great narration. 10/10

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Excellent

I live in Baltimore, and I had forgotten many of the details of the story. What’s so amazing and scary is that it’s all true. The story was laid out well, and the performance was excellent. I highly recommend it.