It’s an old story line that somehow never gets old ... 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 ... Fenton touches on the larger issues raised by the shocking activities of the Gun Trace Task Force members, but he doesn’t linger there. His focus is on the characters in the unit and the fascinating twists and turns of the investigation that eventually brought the rogue cops to justice. Among the many striking revelations in the book is how casual the officers were about their crimes.
... takes its time, unspooling the history of the Gun Trace Task Force. Mr. Fenton is after more than the portrait of a few malcontents ... a standout examination of the failures of policing, laid out in context with greater systemic failures ... a sobering and necessary account of one dramatic way that trust was destroyed, but it is as much a damning indictment of how that destruction grew out of a mixture of negligence, incompetence and hubris.
Clearly inspired by The Wire, Fenton populates his narrative with a network of officers, informants and street dealers, all with different motivations and interests. Some of these personalities come through more vividly than others, but the overall effect is to capture the disorienting, churning quality of a city where the good guys and bad guys aren’t easily distinguished ... Favoring hard-boiled reporter’s prose, Fenton mostly emphasizes story over such analysis, but he shows how, in our zeal to combat crime, we have allowed institutions to produce it.