A six-episode miniseries by George Pelecanos and David Simon (the dream team who brought us The Wire), We Own This City subverts the stylistic rules of crime dramas to raise new questions about systemic injustice, corruption, and police brutality.
Starring Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, and Jamie Hector in the lead roles, the show explores the objectionable dealings of Sergeant Wayne Jenkins and the officers reporting to him. Is We Own This City based on a true story?
Is 'We Own This City' based on a true story?
We Own This City is based on the book of the same name by Justin Fenton. The show offers a fictionalized take on the true-crime book written by Fenton, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated investigative journalist. Assembled in 2007, the Gun Trace Task Force was supposed to crack down on gun violence in Baltimore.
The members of the GTTF failed to carry out its duties, using their status as an elite unit to strike up deals with drug lords and commit burglaries and other crimes. Long story short: We Own This City is based on a non-fiction book dealing with real events.
We Own This City uses time jumps to cast light on the rapid rise and inevitable fall of the GTTF, highlighting the mentality of many members of the task force.
As We Own This City seems to show, officers like Sergeant Jenkins choose the dark side partly because of the lack of consequences. As Brian Tallerico writes for Roger Ebert, police officers had to choose between pursuing their personal agenda and making the right decisions at the cost of potential reprimand.
'We Own This City' takes a true story and makes it its own.
We Own This City uses an inventively-structured plot and three-dimensional characters to raise new questions about the nature of working for the police. A critically acclaimed miniseries, it provides a nuanced view of how a group of officers adheres to the rules of ethics. (Spoiler: not well.)
The real-life Wayne Jenkins was sentenced to 25 years in prison in June 2018 after pleading guilty to one count of racketeering, two counts of robbery, one count of destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in a federal investigation, and four counts of deprivation of rights. According to BBC, Jenkins used to sell drugs he confiscated as part of his job with the help of a bail bondsman named Donald Stepp.
Thomas Allers, another GTTF officer, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in May 2018. Momodu Gondo received a 10-year sentence in February 2019. Jemell Rayam was sentenced to 12 years in May 2019. Evodio Hendrix and Maurice Ward received lighter sentences. They were released in February 2022.
The GTTF is believed to have stolen $300,000 in cash, three kilos of cocaine, 43 pounds of marijuana, 800 grams of heroin, and jewelry worth thousands of dollars, per Time.
"These guys had engaged in so much misconduct previously. Some was known by the police department and the department was incapable of taking care of its own business," Michael Bromwich, who spearheaded the investigation into the wrong-doings of the GTTF, told The Washington Post, via Time.
Watch We Own This City on HBO Max now.