‘Catastrophic institutional failure’: How a crooked Baltimore cop survived and thrived after a decade of criminal activity

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‘Catastrophic institutional failure’: How a crooked Baltimore cop survived and thrived after a decade of criminal activity

Long before his arrest and conviction on federal racketeering charges, former Baltimore Police officer Daniel Hersl had a reputation for brutality and misconduct among citizens, defense attorneys, and even fellow officers.

His pattern of internal affairs complaints, on the other hand, was buried in police records.

In conjunction with the passage last year of a law making police disciplinary files public, a new report into the origins of the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal reveals how Hersl racked up serious complaints of misconduct over the course of 15 years and received little punishment.

Hersl had at least 12 internal affairs cases in 2014, and he was flagged eight times in 2016 for needing “early interventions,” all while the FBI was secretly ramping up an investigation into his squad.

More than ten years of complaints of brutality and discourtesy are listed in his disciplinary history, each one treated as if it happened in a vacuum.

According to a report compiled by a team led by former US Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Bromwich, as well as a previous report on the scandal by a state commission, Hersl and other officers like him were left on the street because they had a high number of arrests and gun seizures.

According to the report, Hersl attempted to get off the streets in 2015 but was turned down because he was a “top producer.”

“With all eyes on Hersl, including at the highest levels of BPD,” the report said, “he continued to engage in misconduct without significant consequences.”

The threat he posed was largely ignored by BPD, who assigned him to a unit that turned out to be the operational headquarters of an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Simply put, this was a colossal institutional failure.”

The investigators noted that this accounting is incomplete because all cases that did not result in punishment or were not upheld were expunged from Hersl’s personnel file at his request.

After being found guilty by a federal jury in 2018, Hersl is serving an 18-year sentence.

From behind bars, he maintains his innocence, claiming that he was a good cop who was misplaced among bad cops.

It’s impossible to square that description…

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