Baltimore Police to use fingerprint scanning to combat overtime fraud

In light of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force scandal, the police will use fingerprint scans to clock in and out of work.

Baltimore Police to use fingerprint scanning to combat overtime fraud
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Baltimore police are turning to biometrics to combat overtime fraud. In the future, officers will not be scanning a badge, punching a timeclock, or submitting overtime paperwork, but submitting a fingerprint when clocking in and out of work.

Although the change is a result of what has been revealed in the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force scandal, it is nevertheless ironic considering the police increasingly use biometric collection — fingerprint, face, and DNA — on citizens.

Extensive overtime fraud is just the tip of the iceberg in the trial of Baltimore's Gun Trace Task Force officers. Members of the now-defunct task force were originally supposed to get guns and violent criminals off the streets, but eight of the nine officers were charged with crimes ranging from claiming overtime when they weren’t even at work to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars, drugs, and jewelry, planting fake evidence, violating constitutional rights, and much more. Former Baltimore Commissioner Kevin Davis described the indicted officers as “1930s-style gangsters.”

Not only did the officers submit overtime paperwork when they were on vacation, gambling at a casino, or even while taking a month off to remodel a house, but they took paid days off for simply doing their job. According to the Baltimore Sun, officers were awarded “internal currency” known as “slash days” or “g days” as a reward for gun seizures. Slash days being used as a reward was a “well-known, not-talked-about secret.”

“Let’s not sugar-coat this: Criminals found a gap in the system and took full advantage of it,” said department spokesman T.J. Smith. “We’re not just going to say, ‘Oh well,’ and everybody crosses their fingers and hopes we do better in the future. We’re taking steps to make sure we do better.”

So far, the police department has only acquired some hardware; there is no estimate when the biometric system will roll out or even how much it will cost. It remains to be seen if the officers will balk at the system or if it will truly instill “a layer of trust in the community” that the police are “doing something” about “the vulnerability of the current paper-based payroll system to fraud.”

Other crooked conduct by BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force

The DEA’s investigation into the misconduct of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force started in 2015. After intercepting a phone call, the DEA caught one officer, suspected of helping drug dealers avoid charges, admitting, “I sell drugs.” From there, the DEA widened the scope of the investigation to reveal a mind-boggling amount of corruption and abuse, racketeering and robberies, from eight of the nine members of the task force.

Here are some of the shocking revelations from the DEA’s investigation into the misconduct of the BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force:

They allegedly robbed drugs dealers, as well as people suspected of no wrong doing. For example, they stole $40,000 in cash from one married couple’s house and $100,000 from a safe following a home invasion. For the latter, after stealing the money, a cop staged a police body-camera video to make it seem like it was the first time the safe was opened.

They allegedly told drug dealers they were with the DEA, which is false, as well as claimed to have a warrant that they didn’t have. In at least one case, they allegedly sold the drugs and guns in order to pocket the money, as the items were obtained via a warrantless search. It’s not like the dealers could really call the cops and report the robberies. Some swindled dealers said the cops told them he was seizing the drugs and money but not arresting them because they weren’t the real target.

As one way to potentially recover guns and drugs, officers would drive “fast at groups of people” and then slam on the brakes, prosecutors said. “The officers would pop their doors open to see who ran, then give chase and detain and search them.” This “occurred 10 to 20 times on slow nights, and more than 50 times, ‘easy,’ on busier nights.”

Prosecutors also said officers would profile “dope boy car” — such as Honda Accords, Acura TLs, Honda Odysseys — for traffic stops, claiming the windows were too heavily tinted or drivers were not wearing seatbelts. Men over age 18 would be stopped for carrying book bags.

During the rioting following the death of Freddie Gray, one officer allegedly stopped a perp from looting a pharmacy only to seize the drugs and hand them over to a drug dealer for a split of the profits.

They carried BB guns “in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.”

The unit also allegedly used illegal GPS trackers to mark targets in order to track them down for robberies.

After robbing one guy, one of the cops wanted to rob him again, prosecutors said. He showed the unit a bag full of ski masks and black clothing and another with a “crow bar, battering ram, and rope with a grappling hook.” Both bags were used as evidence and dumped out in the courtroom.

As Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein said at the time of the indictment, “This is not about aggressive policing, it is about a criminal conspiracy. These are really simply robberies by people wearing police uniforms.”

So, trying to address fraudulent overtime claims with a biometric system to track officers’ time at work is barely skimming the surface when it comes to regaining the public’s trust.

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