The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commission

Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:58 am

Section Two: Patterns of Police Corruption

Chapter Three


At the time of the Commission's investigation, police corruption was found to be an extensive, Department-wide phenomenon, indulged in to some degree by a sizable majority of those on the force and protected by a code of silence on the part of those who remained honest. [i]

Police Corruption: A Historical View

The Commission's findings were hardly new. As long ago as 1844, when the state legislature created the New York police force as the first municipal police department in the country, historians record an immediate problem with extortion and other corrupt activities engaged in by police officers.

Since that time, the New York Police Department has been the subject of numerous corruption scandals followed by investigations. In each case, the investigators turned up substantial evidence of corruption, which was greeted by public expressions of shock and outrage. While some reforms usually followed each of these periodic scandals, the basic pattern of corrupt behavior was never substantially affected and after the heat was off, it was largely back to business as usual.

In March, 1894, in response to allegations of police corruption made by commercial and reform organizations, a New York State Senate committee, financed by private organizations because of the state's refusal to provide funding, conducted an investigation of the New York Police Department. The committee, known as the Lexow Committee, found systematic police extortion of "disorderly houses," systematic payoffs by gambling operations to policemen throughout the City, and payoffs by organized confidence games. The committee also found that small grocery stores, builders, and" all classes of persons whose business is subject to the observation of the police, or who may be reported as violating ordinances, or who may require the aid of the police, all have to contribute in substantial sums to the vast amounts which flow into the station-houses ... "

Seventeen years later, following the Times Square murder of a gambler who had reported police corruption to the newspapers, the Board of Aldermen (predecessor of the City Council) appointed a committee, headed by Henry Curran, to investigate the police. The committee found that corruption and inefficiency in the Department were in large part due to administrative methods which made intelligent direction and accountability impossible. The committee found systematic monthly police extortion of gambling and brothel operations, made possible by weak discipline and a failure of supervision within the Department. It found that the Department was hostile to civilian complaints, and that the police commissioner was not aware of the most important complaints. The aldermanic committee recommended, among other things, the establishment of an internal security squad, composed of men other than policemen, to secure evidence of police corruption.

A citizens' committee working at the same time reported that "corruption is so ingrained that the man of ordinary decent character entering the force and not possessed of extraordinary moral fiber may easily succumb." That committee recommended, among other things, separation of vice control from the constabulary forces of the police.

Some twenty years later, on January 25, 1932, Samuel Seabury, counsel to a committee appointed pursuant to a joint resolution adopted by the state legislature, reported the same condition of police corruption to committee chairman Samuel H. Hofstadter. The committee was granted special powers to grant immunity to witnesses and found that the Police Department was deeply involved in extorting large sums from speakeasies, bootleggers, and gamblers.

On September 15, 1950, Harry Gross, the head of a mammoth New York City gambling syndicate, was arrested and subsequently agreed to cooperate with the district attorney. Having indicated his willingness to tell the district attorney and the grand jury about the police officers who protected his bookmaking operation, he was brought in for questioning. After giving his early background, he told of his first arrangements with members of the Police Department in the early 1940's.

He had been operating in the area of Flatbush and Church Avenues. Two plainclothesmen apprehended him while he was making book. They told him he was operating like a small-timer by cheating (making book without police protection). From this point, his payoff system snowballed. As Gross opened new spots he met and paid more police officers. He quickly reached the point where payments to each division's plainclothes squad were insufficient. He needed protection from squads having boroughwide and citywide jurisdiction over gambling. At the height of his operation, the payoff system was substantially as follows:

On the first and fifteenth of each month Gross paid the plainclothes squad in every division in which he had a gambling spot. In addition, he paid a set fee for each telephone he used in a given division. There were extra payments to precinct plainclothesmen and precinct commanders. The borough plainclothes squads were paid for each location in their jurisdiction. The chief inspector's squad and the police commissioner's squad, having citywide jurisdiction, were paid off for all locations. Inspectors in charge of divisions received regular payments as did lieutenants in charge of plainclothes squads.

The intricate workings of the system need not be detailed. Payoffs were made to each squad which had responsibility for the suppression of gambling. In addition, hundreds of personal gifts of television sets, suits, furs, jewelry, theater tickets, and cars were given to members of the Department. The payoff system was most notable for its sheer magnitude: One million dollars was paid annually to the police for protection, in addition to numerous personal gifts.

Gross told the story of this operation to a grand jury. He named the men he paid, where he met them, and how he made his contacts.

In May, 1951, the grand jury filed an indictment charging twenty-one police officers with conspiring to protect the Gross syndicate. Fifty-seven other police officers were named in the indictment as coconspirators but not as defendants because there was insufficient corroborative evidence against them to meet the requirements for a criminal prosecution.

Gross took the witness stand in Kings County Court, identified all the defendants as men he knew, and testified to the point where he implicated the defendants in the conspiracy. Then he refused to continue. In an extremely dramatic courtroom incident, he was held in contempt for refusing' to obey directives to answer questions. The district attorney was left with no alternative but to ask the court to dismiss the indictment. The trial had begun and, under the constitutional ban against placing a defendant in double jeopardy, the defendants could not be retried and were free. On September 27, 1951, in the Court of Special Sessions, Gross received twelve one-year sentences on his plea of guilty to sixty-five counts of bookmaking.

Studies of police corruption in other cities have likewise uncovered systematic police extortion of bookmakers, mutuel racehorse policy operators, brothels and prostitutes, and legitimate businesses.

It seems that the pressures upon policemen, the nature of the job, and the inevitable temptations are similar enough in any large municipal police department at any time to give rise to the kinds of problems found by this Commission and its predecessors.

Grass-Eaters and Meat-Eaters

Corrupt policemen have been informally described as being either "grass-eaters" or "meat-eaters." The overwhelming majority of those who do take payoffs are grass-eaters, who accept gratuities and solicit five- and ten- and twenty-dollar payments from contractors, tow-truck operators, gamblers, and the like, but do not aggressively pursue corruption payments. "Meat-eaters," probably only a small percentage of the force, spend a good deal of their working hours aggressively seeking out situations they can exploit for financial gain, including gambling, narcotics, and other serious offenses which can yield payments of thousands of dollars. Patrolman William Phillips was certainly an example of this latter category.

One strong impetus encouraging grass-eaters to continue to accept relatively petty graft is, ironically, their feeling of loyalty to their fellow officers. Accepting payoff money is one way for an officer to prove that he is one of the boys and that he can be trusted. In the climate which existed in the Department during the Commission's investigation, at least at the precinct level, these numerous but relatively small payoffs were a fact of life, and those officers who made a point of refusing them were not accepted closely into the fellowship of policemen. Corruption among grass-eaters obviously cannot be met by attempting to arrest them all and will probably diminish only if Commissioner Murphy is successful in his efforts to change the rank and file attitude toward corruption.

No change in attitude, however, is likely to affect a meat-eater, whose yearly income in graft amounts to many thousands of dollars and who may take payoffs of $5,000 or even $50,000 in one fell swoop (former Assistant Chief Inspector Sydney Cooper, who had been active in anti-corruption work for years, recently stated that the largest score of which he had heard -- although he was unable to verify it -- was a narcotics payoff involving $250,000). Such men are willing to take considerable risks as long as the potential profit remains so large. Probably the only way to deal with them will be to ferret them out individually and get them off the force, and, hopefully, into prisons.

Pads, Scores and Gratuities

Corruption payments made to the police may be divided into "pad" payments and" scores," two police slang terms which make an important distinction.

The "pad" refers to regular weekly, biweekly, or monthly payments, usually picked up by a police bagman and divided among fellow officers. Those who make such payments as well as policemen who receive them are referred to as being" on the pad."

A "score" is a one-time payment that an officer might solicit from, for example, a motorist or a narcotics violator. The term is also used as a verb, as in "I scored him for $1,500."

A third category of payments to the police is that of gratuities, which the Commission feels cannot in the strictest sense be considered a matter of police corruption, but which has been included here because it is a related -- and ethically borderline -- practice, which is prohibited by Department regulations, and which often leads to corruption.

Operations on the pad are generally those which operate illegally in a fixed location day in and day out. Illegal gambling is probably the single largest source of pad payments. The most important legitimate enterprises on the pad at the time of the investigation were those like construction, licensed premises, and businesses employing large numbers of vehicles, all of which operate from fixed locations and are subject to summonses from the police for myriad violations.

Scores, on the other hand, are made whenever the opportunity arises -- most often when an officer happens to spot someone engaging in an illegal activity like pushing narcotics, which doesn't involve a fixed location. Those whose activities are generally legal but who break the law occasionally, like motorists or tow-truck operators, are also subject to scores. By far the most lucrative source of scores is the City's multimillion-dollar narcotics business.

Factors Influencing Corruption

There are at least five major factors which influence how much or how little graft an officer receives, and also what his major sources are. The most important of these is, of course, the character of the officer in question, which will determine whether he bucks the system and refuses all corruption money; goes along with the system and accepts what comes his way; or outdoes the system, and aggressively seeks corruption-prone situations and exploits them to the extent that it seriously cuts into the time available for doing his job. His character will also determine what kind of graft he accepts. Some officers, who don't think twice about accepting money from gamblers, refuse to have anything at all to do with narcotics pushers. They make a distinction between what they call "clean money" and "dirty money."

The second factor is the branch of the Department to which an officer is assigned. A plainclothesman, for example, has more -- and different -- opportunities than a uniformed patrolman.

The third factor is the area to which an officer is assigned. At the time of the investigation certain precincts in Harlem, for instance, comprised what police officers called "the Gold Coast" because they contained so many payoff-prone activities, numbers and narcotics being the biggest. In contrast, the Twenty-Second Precinct, which is Central Park, has clearly limited payoff opportunities. As Patrolman Phillips remarked, "What can you do, shake down the squirrels'" The area also determines the major sources of corruption payments. For instance, in midtown Manhattan precincts businessmen and motorists were major sources; on the Upper East Side, bars and construction; in the ghetto precincts, narcotics, and numbers.

The fourth factor is the officer's assignment. For uniformed men, a seat in a sector car was considered fairly lucrative in most precincts, while assignment to stand guard duty outside City Hall obviously was not, and assignment to one sector of a precinct could mean lots of payoffs from construction sites while in another sector bar owners were the big givers.

The fifth factor is rank. For those who do receive payoffs, the amount generally ascends with the rank. A bar may give $5 to patrolmen, $10 to sergeants, and considerably more to a captain's bagman. Moreover, corrupt supervisors have the opportunity to cut into much of the graft normally collected by those under them.

Sources of Payoffs

Organized crime is the single biggest source of police corruption, through its control of the City's gambling, narcotics, loansharking, and illegal sex-related enterprises like homosexual afterhours bars and pornography, all of which the Department considers mob-run. These endeavors are so highly lucrative that large payments to the police are considered a good investment if they protect the business from undue police interference.

The next largest source is legitimate business seeking to ease its way through the maze of City ordinances and regulations. Major offenders are construction contractors and subcontractors, liquor licensees, and managers of businesses like trucking firms and parking lots, which are likely to park large numbers of vehicles illegally. If the police were completely honest, it is likely that members of these groups would seek to corrupt them, since most seem to feel that paying off the police is easier and cheaper than obeying the laws or paying fines and answering summonses when they do violate the laws. However, to the extent police resist corruption, business interests will be compelled to use their political muscle to bring about revision of the regulations to make them workable.

Two smaller sources of payments to the police are private citizens, like motorists caught breaking the law, and small-time criminals like gypsy fortune tellers, purse-snatchers, and pickpockets who may attempt to buy their freedom from an arresting officer.

Organization of the Department

To understand police corruption in New York and have some idea of how such corruption involves supervisors and commanders as well as the rank and file, one must first know a little about how the Department is organized. The following brief account is by no means complete, but it should suffice to provide some understanding of the Department's organization. [ii]

Patrol Force: Of the thirty thousand men and women in the New York Police Department, approximately two-thirds are assigned to the Patrol Services Bureau, which is headed by the Chief of Patrol. The patrol force is divided into seven borough commands: Manhattan North, Manhattan South, Brooklyn North, Brooklyn South, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island. Each borough command supervises several divisions, [iii] which are, in turn, subdivided into seventy-four precincts. Most uniformed patrolmen are assigned to the precincts, where they are supervised by sergeants. The sergeants in turn report to lieutenants, and the lieutenants to precinct commanders, who are generally captains although they may be of higher rank.

Plainclothes: The Department's 450 plainclothesmen are patrolmen, sergeants, lieutenants, and captains who wear civilian clothes and work primarily in the areas of gambling, narcotics, and such vices as prostitution and pornography. At the time the Commission's investigation began, plainclothesmen, like the patrol force, were assigned to precinct, division, and borough commands. However, plainclothes has since been reorganized several times with control now centralized in a special Organized Crime Control Bureau under a deputy commissioner.

Detectives: The 3,000-man Detective Bureau is headed by the Chief of Detectives who, like the Chief of Patrol, reports to the Chief Inspector who reports to the Police Commissioner. At the time of the Commission's investigation, detective squads were assigned to precinct, division, and borough commands. But the Detective Bureau has since been reorganized, and detectives are now assigned to specialized squads within detective districts, which are coterminous with patrol divisions.

The Commissioner's Office: At the top of this vast pyramid is the Police Commissioner, who is assisted by seven deputy commissioners. The Commissioner is appointed by the Mayor to a five-year term designed to overlap the four-year term of the Mayor. Of the twelve Commissioners appointed during the last forty years, only two have served the full term to which they were appointed. One of these served for eleven years. The other eleven served an average of twenty-three months each.


In its investigation into police corruption, the Commission found that each area under investigation had its own distinctive patterns. Each is therefore discussed in a separate chapter which describes what the Commission investigation found, the reasons for the payoffs, the methods of paying, and, where appropriate, setting forth the Commission's comments.



i. The Commission's investigation ended on October 18, 1971, the day the first public hearings began. In discussions of the existence and extent of corruption, this report speaks as of that date-unless otherwise clearly indicated.

ii. Exhibit 8 of the Appendix is a map showing the geographical organization of the Department as of January, 1972.

iii. Except in Staten Island, where there is no division. Staten Island Borough Command directly supervises the island's three precincts.
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 1:19 am

Chapter Four: GAMBLING

"You can't work numbers in Harlem unless you pay. If you don't pay, you go to jail ... You go to jail on a frame if you don't pay."

-- Numbers Operator, Executive Session, January 15, 1971

Policemen, especially those in plainclothes units, were found to shake down gambling operations throughout the City on a regular, highly systematic basis. The collection of tribute by police from gamblers has traditionally been extremely well organized and has persisted in virtually unchanged form for years despite periodic scandals, departmental reorganizations, massive transfers in and out of the units involved, and the folding of some gambling operations and the establishment of new ones.

The Commission received numerous complaints of illegal gambling operations, most allegedly located in ghetto neighborhoods. In those areas where Commission investigators went to check out these allegations, they found the situation to be just as described, with some neighborhoods having a numbers spot every block or two. Investigators also found numerous bookmaking operations and some high-stakes, organized card and dice games. The operators of these games apparently had little fear of police intervention in their enterprises, and their confidence was well-founded. Payments to police insured that their operations would be protected from police action, except for token arrests made to give an appearance of activity.

Reasons for Gambling Payoffs

In New York State it is perfectly legal to buy a ticket in the state-run lottery or to place a bet on a horse either at the racetrack or at a state-run betting parlor, and other forms of legalized gambling have been proposed. Although gambling was considered morally objectionable at the turn of the century when most laws against it were passed, that attitude has largely evaporated, with most citizens, public officials, and policemen feeling that there is nothing wrong with it. There is, therefore, no public pressure to crack down.

The courts, too, take a lenient view of gambling offenses, dismissing a high percentage of cases and imposing light fines in most others.

A State Commission of Investigation study of eighty-eight gambling arrests made during one year at a Bronx social club revealed that forty-seven of the arrests -- slightly over one-half -- resulted in conviction, and of these, one resulted in a jail sentence -- and then only because the convicted gambler chose to go to jail for five days rather than pay a $50fine. In the remaining forty-five convictions, the offenders were either given conditional discharges or ordered to pay fines ranging from $25 to $250.

A similar study by the Policy Sciences Center, Inc., came up with comparable figures. This study analyzed 356 numbers bank arrests made in Bedford-Stuyvesant over the past ten years. Such arrests can be assumed to have greater impact on the gambling power structure, because an arrest in a policy bank involves a greater number of slips and larger money volume, yet the courts did not show significantly greater punishments for such offenses. Of the 356 arrests, 198 resulted in dismissals, sixty-three in acquittals, and ninety-five in convictions. Of the ninety-five convictions, twelve resulted in suspended sentences, seventy-seven in a fine/time option, and six in jail sentences. Of the six jail sentences, one was for one year and the other five averaged seventeen days.

Our study of 108 gambling arrests made by the plainclothes squad in one division over a five-month period showed that, of fifty convictions, not one resulted in a jail sentence: two resulted in conditional discharge; forty-seven in fines of under $300; and one in a $500 fine. (Five were pending.)

Police officers, sharing the general attitude that gambling does no harm, themselves regard gambling money as "clean" graft. But, despite the changed attitudes toward gambling, most forms of gambling remain illegal, and corrupt policemen at the time of the investigation considered gamblers fair game.

As for gamblers, they were found to regard payments to the police as a necessary business expense. They often pointed out that a numbers operation couldn't exist unless it was under police auspices. As one gambler told the Commission, the police "are the insurance company, and unless you pay your monthly rent, you can't operate."

Plainclothesmen and Gambling

At the time of the Commission's investigation, plainclothesmen bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-gambling laws, and it was among plainclothesmen that the Commission found the most pervasive and systematic police corruption, particularly in relation to gambling. The Commission received its information about plainclothes payoffs from gamblers, former and current plainclothesmen, police supervisors and anti-corruption officers; law enforcement officers outside the Department, and, most significantly, from tape-recorded conversations with plainclothesmen actually going about the business of setting up or receiving payments.

At the start of the Commission's investigation, plainclothes units were assigned to precinct, division and borough commands. By February, 1971,borough and precinct units had been eliminated. Finally, in November, 1971, division plainclothes units were merged with the central Public Morals Division and placed under the new Organized Crime Control Bureau, headed by a deputy commissioner. [i] Reorganizations have not in the past made any noticeable dent in plainclothes corruption, and it remains to be seen whether the latest attempt will be successful.

The Pad

The heart of the gambling payoff system was found to be the plainclothes "pad." In a highly systemized pattern, described to the Commission by numerous sources and verified during our investigation, plainclothesmen collected regular biweekly or monthly payoffs from gamblers on the first and fifteenth of each month, often at a meeting place some distance from the gambling spot and outside the immediate police precinct or division. The pad money was picked up at designated locations by one or more bagmen who were most often police officers but who occasionally were ex-policemen or civilians. The proceeds were then pooled and divided up among all or virtually all of the division's plainclothesmen, with each plainclothes patrolman receiving an equal share. Supervisory lieutenants who were on the pad customarily received a share and a half and, although the Commission was unable to document particular instances, any commanding officer who participated reportedly received two full shares. In addition, the bagman received a larger cut, often an extra share, to compensate him for the risk involved in making his collections. Some bagmen made extra profits by telling gamblers there were more plainclothesmen in the division than there actually were, collecting shares for these non-existent men and pocketing the proceeds. Division plainclothesmen generally met once a month to divide up the money and to discuss matters concerning the pad -- i.e., inviting plainclothesmen newly assigned to the division to join, raising or lowering the amounts paid by various gamblers, and so forth. A man newly assigned to plainclothes duty in a division would be put on the pad after he had been with the division for a specified period, usually two months, during which time the other members would check him out and make sure he was reliable. This loss of revenue was customarily made up to him when he was transferred out of the division at which time he would receive severance pay in the form of two months' payments after his transfer. Plainclothesmen who put a new gambling operation on the pad were entitled to keep the entire first month's payment as a finder's fee.

This pattern of collection and distribution appeared to Commission investigators to be quite standardized. It was evident in the four Manhattan divisions and the one Queens division which were the focus of the Commission's investigation. Evidence of the same patterns was also turned up in the other Manhattan division and in one division each in Brooklyn and the Bronx, for a total of eight divisions out of the sixteen divisions and Staten Island. [ii] In addition, the Commission received allegations of similar pads in most of the other divisions in the City.

William Phillips, then recently assigned as a plainclothesman in the division covering lower Manhattan, testified on the basis of his own experiences and conversations with fellow plainclothesmen that the average monthly share per man ranged from $400 to $500 in midtown Manhattan divisions, to $800 on the Upper West Side, $1,100 in lower Manhattan, and $1,500 in Harlem. He stated that the reported "nut" (share per man) in two Queens divisions was $600, that in the three Bronx divisions it was $600, $800, and $900, and that in one Brooklyn division it was $800. These figures corroborated quite precisely those received by the Commission from the many sources willing to talk privately but who did not want to take the risk of public testimony, and further corroboration has come from similar sources since the Commission's hearings.

The pad was a way of life in plainclothes. According to Patrolman Phillips, the pad was openly and endlessly discussed whenever plainclothesmen got together. The Commission found no reason to doubt Phillips' opinion, echoing that held by other knowledgeable police officers and informants: "In every division in every area of plainclothes in the City, the same condition exists. There is a pad in every plainclothes precinct and division in the City of New York."

Revelations made before and after the Commission's investigation bore out the consistent nature of plainclothes gambling pads. Prior to the Commission's existence, Patrolman Frank Serpico told about his experience in a Bronx plainclothes division in 1967 and 1968 and described an almost identical pattern of payoffs. In May, 1972, after the Commission's hearings, Kings County District Attorney Eugene Gold announced the indictment of virtually an entire division plainclothes squad in Brooklyn, which collected payments from gamblers without interruption during the Commission's public hearings in precisely the same fashion being described by Commission witnesses. The indictments and related departmental charges involved a total of thirty-six current and former plainclothesmen, twenty-four of whom were indicted. According to Mr. Gold, at one time twenty-four of twenty-five plainclothesmen in the division were on the pad. It is highly significant that this investigation was carried out without the Commission's knowledge, and yet, like the information given by Frank Serpico, it revealed a pattern of share payments, severance pay, and bagmen that matched in detail the patterns described by Patrolman Phillips and other Commission witnesses and informants.

The corrupting influence of gambling operations is not limited to plainclothes. Gambling pads of various sorts were also found to exist in the uniformed patrol force.

Generally, where such pads existed among uniformed men, the sector car had its own pad, the sergeant theirs, and the desk lieutenant and precinct commander had their own personal pads if they were so disposed. (Precinct commanders who received graft almost always designated a patrolman, "the captain's man," to make their pickups, and in some instances, when a corrupt captain was transferred out and an honest one took over, the captain's man continued to collect payments "for the captain" and kept the money.)

At the time of the investigation, certain precincts in areas with widespread gambling had special gambling cars (patrol cars with the words "gambling car" painted on them) to which two uniformed patrolmen were assigned with the ostensible mission of harassing gamblers. According to Phillips, these patrolmen were notorious for the extensiveness of their pads.

Different Kinds of Gambling and Different-Sized Payoffs

There are three major forms of illegal gambling in New York: numbers, bookmaking, and card and dice games. The size of a payoff was found to vary considerably according to the nature of the gambling operation, with the most lucrative and conspicuous operations paying the highest monthly tariff. Conspicuousness plays an important role in determining the amount of the payoff because the more overt a gambling operation is, the easier it is for police to make arrests and generally harass employees and players. Also, highly conspicuous operations are more likely to generate citizen complaints, which can put the police in a compromising position. Numbers is by far the most conspicuous of the three, depending as it does on numerous permanent locations, large numbers of players coming and going, and crowds gathering outside to hear results. Bookmakers who operate on street corners or from telephone booths are also fairly conspicuous, although bookies who operate from apartments using telephone answering services or elaborate electronic equipment designed to prevent detection often escape police notice and thus the pad. High stakes card and dice games, which involve many players, were generally found to pay if they stayed in one location, but "floating" games are less conspicuous and often didn't pay.

For intelligence purposes, the Police Department maintains two special sets of files relating to gambling. One of these is a file on "known gamblers," individuals who generally have a long history of gambling arrests. The files contain their pictures, arrest records, and any other pertinent data the Department may have collected. The Department also maintains files on known gambling combines, which contain whatever information the Department may have on given gambling operations, including the location and the names and functions of employees. These files, which are intended to aid in gambling enforcement, often influenced the size of the payment a given gambler made to the police, the payment rising accordingly to the number of known gamblers employed by the combine.


In many New York neighborhoods, there are spots every block or two, in candy stores, tobacco stores, unadorned storefronts, and first-floor apartments, where one can place a 25¢, 50¢, or $1 bet on a number. Various kinds of bets may be placed on one to three digits. The winning number each day is determined by a complicated formula based on the amounts of money wagered and paid out at various racetracks. In essence, the numbers game is a lottery, with odds ranging from 10-1 to 1000-1, depending on whether one bets on one, two, or three digits. The payoff ranges from 6-1 to 600-1, with the game's sponsors keeping forty per cent of the amount bet to cover their operating expenses and profits.

Bets are taken by numbers runners, who either collect bets door-to- door, or accept them at a fixed location which may be anything from a street corner to a store to a first-floor apartment. For his services, the runner receives a percentage of the amount bet with him. Before the first race is run at whatever track is being used to determine the winning number, all betting slips and the money bet are collected from the various runners and taken either directly to the "bank" or to a "drop" from which they will later be taken to the bank. At the bank, clerks with adding machines tally the day's take and figure the money owed to winners, which is sent by messenger back to the runners, who then take ten percent of the winnings as a tip and pass on the remainder to the winners.

The banker in a numbers operation is the central figure in the setup. Until recently, almost all bankers were organized crime figures from outside the ghetto. [iii] But there has been a growing trend toward numbers operators from within the ghetto becoming bankers themselves. A banker usually has working for him several "controllers," each of whom in turn controls a number of runners.

The Commission's gambling investigation in Harlem was initiated by a citizen complaint, referred to the Commission by the Department of Investigation, alleging that an unidentified gambler, driving an auto with a specific license plate number had given money to a police officer in a sector patrol car. Commission investigators then followed the auto in question and established a pattern of regular stops at various gambling spots which always ended at a specific spot located in a rear apartment in a residential building on a main thoroughfare in the division. The investigators then made observations at that location and filmed the coming and goings of apparent customers and members of the gambling combine. They observed that certain men would stand in front of the spot acting as lookouts, that there was an unusually heavy flow of people in and out of the hallway, and that there was a heavier flow of people in the early afternoons when it was alleged that single action play was being accepted.

From police records and the later testimony of division personnel in Commission executive hearings, it became clear that the police were aware of the spot's existence and business. Police records indicated a significant number of arrests in the vicinity of the spot including the frequent arrest of the presumed operator of the spot. Yet the business went on seemingly unhampered by police arrests. A very graphic example of this lack of effectiveness was displayed at the Commission's public hearings in the form of a film showing a police raid on the premises. A large number of people were seen constantly going in and out of the hallway; police officers were seen arriving in front of the building, entering the hall, and leaving with one man. Then a single man was seen to leave the hall, look up and down the street, and wave a handkerchief. Apparently this was a prearranged signal because a number of people then left the hall and dispersed on the street. The normal pattern of comings and goings then resumed.

The man designated in police combine records as the operator of the spot was first arrested in 1948 and since then has been arrested fifty-one times. These cases led to twenty-six dismissals, six acquittals and seventeen convictions (three were pending). Of the seventeen convictions only two resulted in a mandatory jail term: In two cases the operator received probation, in three cases a suspended sentence and in eleven cases a sentence of fine or time; in one case he received a fifteen-day sentence and in a second he received a choice of $250 fine or thirty days in jail and a mandatory thirty days in jail. These two sentences did not seem to reflect a growing judicial impatience with his recidivism because his last four convictions in 1969 resulted in fine or time sentences despite the fact that he had at that time a record of forty-five arrests and thirteen convictions. It was learned from an informant in this operation that this alleged operator was only the overseer of the operation and that the actual boss of the spot was a man with a very scanty arrest record. The informant also stated that the boss would oversee the operation when the operator was arrested and that at such times the police would never raid the spot.

When someone decides to start a numbers operation, the first thing he does is to get in touch with the other gamblers in the area, to clear his operation with them and make sure he's not encroaching on their territory. Next, he will get in touch with the police, either directly or through other gamblers working in the same neighborhood. Or he may simply start taking bets and wait for the police to come to him.

One ex-gambler, working as an informant for the Commission, made inquiries about setting up a numbers operation in Harlem. While wearing a transmitter monitored by Commission investigators, he spoke to several other gamblers with operations in the division who told him that they were on the pad and that they could get him on with the help of another gambler who acted as contact man for the division.

Gamblers were found to pay policemen amounts which varied according to the nature of their operations. One ambulatory runner, who moved from place to place in Harlem collecting bets in hairdressers' shops, candy stores, and apartment house hallways, paid $200 a month to division plainclothesmen while an operator of a permanent spot paid $600 a month. Another gambler, who ran a fixed spot, told the Commission he paid $750 a month to division plainclothes and $300 to borough, as well as $196 to the detective squad, $180 to the precinct sergeants, $60 to the precinct desk officers, $60 to the precinct gambling car when there was one, and $120 a week to the local patrol car, for a total of $1,600 a month. At another Harlem spot, several police cars stopped by every morning except Sunday [iv] at around 7:00 a.m., and the lookout gave money to the patrolmen in the car.

When borough plainclothes squads were eliminated III February, 1971, Queens division plainclothesmen reportedly demanded, in addition to their own monthly share, the entire monthly share that had been going to borough plainclothes. Queens numbers operators held a meeting to discuss the demand and present a unified front. It was agreed that they would increase the monthly payment by an average of $200to $300. According to one source, this meeting of numbers operators to resolve a common problem was most unusual in Queens, which the source stated was the only borough where policy operators did not have some sort of unity.

Uniformed men also scored gamblers on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Patrolman Droge testified about some well-known gamblers in one precinct he worked in, who used to drive around the precinct in a car. Police officers were constantly on the lookout for them, because it was their custom to throw $8 into a police car whenever they came across one.

In Queens, one gambler operating from a fixed spot told the Commission that he paid $2,100 a month, while the operator of a smaller game without a fixed location said that he paid $1,200, split evenly between division and borough. Another Queens gambler, whose spot was said to have been found for him by the police, reportedly paid $1,750 a month for as long as he operated the spot. He later gave up the spot and changed his operation to an ambulatory one, whereupon the police lowered the price to $1,200 a month. Gamblers who operated without a spot often escaped making pad payments at the precinct level, although they were always subject to scores by men from the precinct.

In return for these payments, gamblers were protected from all police action at precinct, division, and borough levels, with the exception of occasional token arrests. These payments did not protect them from action by the Public Morals Administrative Division (PMAD) of the First Deputy Commissioner's office, a unit which Phillips said was generally feared by corrupt police officers. If PMAD made an arrest at a gambling spot, to protect themselves division and borough plainclothesmen would then make follow-up arrests at the same spot.

But there are indications that a partial pad may also have existed in PMAD involving some members of the unit. Patrolman Phillips, while working undercover for the Commission, was told by a plainclothes patrolman that arrangements could be made with PMAD to protect a gambling operation at least partially. In addition, a former controller in a Harlem combine stated that he had been approached by a PMAD plainclothesman who sought to put him on what he said was a PMAD pad. The gambler refused even to discuss the pad with the plainclothesman until he had had him checked out by other plainclothesmen he knew, because he wanted to make sure that the PMAD plainclothesman was not setting him up for a possible bribery case. The check indicated that the plainclothesman was corrupt and he put the gambler on what he claimed was a PMAD pad for $185 a month with $25 extra for himself.

Most often, when plainclothesmen needed a token arrest to meet arrest quotas or to give the appearance of activity, they would tell the operator of a spot and arrange a time and place for the arrest. The operator would then select someone to take the arrest, who was usually either one of his employees who had a relatively clean arrest record or an addict who was paid for his trouble. Whoever took the arrest would put a handful of bogus policy slips in his pocket and meet the plainclothesman at the designated time and place, where, often as not, he would get into their car without even waiting to be asked.

Alternatively, when police needed a gambling arrest, they would pick up someone known to them as a gambler and plant phony numbers slips on him (a practice known as "flaking"), then arrest him. They were rather casual about this, sometimes flaking bookmakers with numbers slips or numbers runners with bookmaking records, a practice which infuriated the gamblers more than being arrested. When police decided to score gamblers, they would most often flake people with gambling slips, then demand $25 or $50 for not arresting them. Other times, they would simply threaten a flake and demand money. As mentioned above, they also scored people after arrest by offering to change their testimony at trial. When this happened, the take was higher, usually several hundred dollars.

Another method plainclothesman used to score gamblers was to arrest a gambler, then take money from him for writing up the arrest affidavit in such a way that he would be acquitted. If, for instance, the arresting officer stated he found numbers slips near the suspect, perhaps on a radiator or a counter, rather than on his person, defense counsel could make a motion for dismissal and the judge would have no choice but to throw out the case. At other times, officers would make their complaints sufficiently vague so that acquittal or conviction depended on their testimony at trial. One such affidavit reads, "Deponent states that the Defendant had in his possession on a counter [emphasis added] in the said premises a total of 118 slips of paper bearing a total of 842 plays MRHP [mutuel racehorse policy] with amounts wagered and identities." When officers had filed ambiguous affidavits like the one above, they would often score the suspect for whatever they could get, then change their testimony so that he was acquitted.

Another common method of scoring numbers operators consisted of policemen confiscating the gambler's numbers slips, which are known as "work." The police officer would then offer to sell the work back to the gambler. Such scores generally involved sizable amounts of money, because it is vitally important to the operator to have his work, so that he can know who the winners are in the day's play and pay them-and only them. If a police officer kept the work, many players would claim that they had the winning number, and the numbers operator would have to pay them all off at 600-1, or not pay any of them, which would ruin his future business since he would get a reputation for welshing on bets.

In his testimony at the public hearings, ex-Patrolman Waverly Logan described an incident in which two uniformed officers walked up to a policy bank and simply rang the bell, whereupon the operator opened the door. The two officers then arrested the banker and took him to the precinct house, where he was booked. Logan testified that plainclothes officers at the precinct said they had known all along where the bank was and were just waiting to raid it.


Payoffs to police by bookmakers were found to follow roughly the same pattern as those made by numbers operators with certain modifications resulting from the distinctive nature of bookmaking. Bookies in New York City have two quite different methods of operation. There are "street bookies," who work in specific -- usually poor -- neighborhoods, collecting their bets either at fixed locations or by making rounds of stores, bars, apartment houses, and certain designated street corners. The amounts wagered with a street bookie are generally small. Because he works the same neighborhood every day and visits the same locations, his operations are fairly obvious to the police and, at the time of the investigation, he had to be on the pad to stay in business. How much a street bookie paid was found to depend on whether or not he worked out of a fixed spot, on how large his operation was, and on whether he had others working for him.

The telephone bookie operates a more sophisticated service, generally involving larger wagers. The simplest kind of telephone bookmaking operation involves the bookie stationing himself in a pay telephone booth where he receives his bets. Generally, bookies who operate this way change phones frequently. Since most bettors who deal with these bookies place bets regularly, it is a simple matter for the bookie to tell his customers when they call to place a bet that he is changing locations and to give them the new phone number. Since this kind of telephone bookie can work out of a phone booth in Brooklyn one day and out of one in the Bronx the next, he is never put on any division's pad, although at the time of the investigation such bookies were often scored by any policeman who caught them at work.

One telephone bookie who worked out of various pay phones told the Commission that he had been arrested three times in the last three years. Following the first arrest, the bookie paid $750 to the arresting plainclothesman, who told him he split the money with his partner and with his supervising lieutenant. The case against the bookie was dismissed in court. In the second case, the bookie paid the arresting officers $500 at the time of the arrest and $50 a month for four months, after which the court case was dismissed and he stopped paying. The third and most serious case involved a felony arrest for bookmaking made by a special plainclothes detail from the borough command set up to go after policy banks. The bookie said that he paid $2,500 to borough plainclothes and ultimately received a $300 fine upon conviction.

Phillips testified about another telephone bookie who regularly worked out of two pay telephones in Harlem. "He has two telephones on the corner and it's his private office," Phillips said. "He's there all day long, him and his associate, answering phones, making callbacks." Because his operation was on the street and stationary, this bookie of course paid off the police.

The more sophisticated telephone bookie uses more elaborate systems. He can employ a telephone answering service to take down bettors' phone numbers, then call them back. Or he can use a variety of complicated electronic devices, some of which are almost impossible to trace. Because the risk of police detection is nil for bookmakers using sophisticated telephone devices, they are not targets of police pads and are rarely scored.

At the time of the Commission's investigation, bookies interviewed in Queens and Manhattan North said they paid amounts ranging from $750 to $800 a month to division plainclothesmen and an equal amount to plainclothesmen assigned to borough, with all payments doubled at Christmas.

Bookies either made their pad payments directly to the police bagman, or one bookmaker collected from the others and turned the entire amount over to the police, after taking a cut for his trouble. Street bookies, who made pad payments to the police, were less likely to be scored than telephone bookies.

Card and Dice Games

Operators of card and dice games also paid the police in a similar pattern of pads and scores. High stakes organized games generally made pad payments to various units of policemen, from the precinct level on up as high as they could reach. These were expensive games, where thousands of dollars were bet and where players could win or lose $15,000 in an evening.

Patrolman Phillips testified about one such dice game, operated by a gambler named Joe Tough Guy in the Twenty-Fifth Precinct in East Harlem, who made pad payments to division plainclothesmen and to uniformed sergeants and sector car patrolmen. Shortly after the sector car pad of $50 per car per month was established, a lieutenant in the precinct heard about it and approached Phillips to discus~ enlarging the pad to include the precinct's lieutenants. While wearing a transmitter monitored by Commission investigators, Phillips attended a meeting between the lieutenant and a representative of the gambler, during which they negotiated a pad of $100 a month for the lieutenants. There was some discussion about also including two captains assigned to the precinct, but no definite arrangements were made.

As a result of these tape recordings, which were turned over to the United States Attorney's Office, federal indictments have been returned against the lieutenant, two gamblers, and eight sector car patrolmen.

Patrolman Droge testified at the public hearings about another card game, held regularly four nights a week in one precinct where he was assigned. On nights when the game was played, sector cars on two shifts would park across the street from the game and wait for the gamblers to send someone across the street with $10. Droge also testified that if the messenger was slow in coming out with the money, the cops would honk the horn "to speed things up."

The Commission was also told of a dice game in Harlem, whose operator paid $200 a month to the sector car bagman, although the police did not know the location of the game and he wouldn't tell them.

Eventually, the Commission decided to set up a bogus dice game. Phillips spread a rumor that he knew a gambler who wanted to set up a floating game. He was introduced through an intermediary to plainclothes patrolmen from the Third and Fourth Divisions in mid- Manhattan. The negotiations that followed were monitored by means of a transmitter worn by Phillips. The plainclothesmen first asked for $2,000 for each division, then later they upped the ante to $4,000 each, explaining that the two divisions had thirty plainclothesmen each, all of whom were on the pad. They explained that Manhattan South Borough Command would also have to be paid, even though it no longer had a plainclothes squad. Phillips also discussed with the two plainclothesmen the possibility of getting on the pad with PMAD, and the plainclothesmen stated that it could be done, but that it would only be a partial pad, including some but not all of the PMAD plainclothesmen. Phillips made various payments totalling $500 to these officers for their efforts in scouting for suitable locations and making arrangements for the pad.

At about the time all arrangements had been made, Phillips was transferred to the First Division. Because the Commission had the information it wanted and because it was reluctant to pay several thousand dollars, Phillips used his transfer as an excuse for telling the Third and Fourth Division plainclothesmen that he was moving the game to his new division. Evidence gathered during the operation was turned over to the New York County District Attorney's Office and resulted in indictments against four policemen and one civilian.

Phillips, again wearing a transmitter, also approached a plainclothesman whom he knew to be the bagman for the Sixteenth Division in Queens about setting up a game there. This time the game was to be cards rather than dice, because card games have traditionally paid smaller pads than dice games and would fit more comfortably into the Commission's budget. The bagman told Phillips that a card game in the Sixteenth would cost $1,500 to division and explained that that amount covered all the plainclothesmen but only some of the bosses. Phillips then paid the bagman $50 for checking out possible locations. At this point, Phillips' cover was blown, and this particular investigation came to a halt.

In the City's poorer neighborhoods, dice and card games and dominoes are played in the street for money on summer nights. These are generally informal games, played for low stakes, and they do not make pad payments. However, policemen can and do occasionally score the players for $2 and $5.


The most obvious effect of gambling corruption is the fact that gambling operations all over the City are allowed to operate openly and almost completely unhindered by police action. For most people, who do not regard gambling as a great moral evil, this in itself is not particularly alarming. What is alarming is that plainclothes units serve as an important breeding ground for large-scale corruption in other areas of the Department. Some officers who have managed to stay honest before being assigned to plainclothes are initiated into corrupt practices while in plainclothes units and go on to practice what they learned there for the rest of their tenure in the Department. Others, who have indulged in minor corruption before assignment to plainclothes, learn how to expand their activities.

But perhaps the most important effect of corruption in the so-called gambling control units is the incredible damage their performance wreaks on public confidence in the law and the police. Youngsters raised in New York ghettos, where gambling abounds, regard the law as a joke when all their lives they have seen police officers coming and going from gambling establishments and taking payments from gamblers.
Many ghetto people who have grown up watching police performance in relation to gambling and narcotics are absolutely convinced that all policemen are getting rich on their share of the profits of these two illegal activities. While it is certainly not true that all police officers, or even a majority, get rich on gambling and narcotics graft, the fact that a large number of citizens believe they do has a tremendously damaging effect on police authority.

The Department announced in January, 1972, that, as of February 1, anti-gambling enforcement efforts would be concentrated on high-level figures in gambling combines and that low-level runners would no longer be arrested except when complaints were received. In another move to limit opportunities for corruption, the Department also laid down the rule that uniformed patrolmen may no longer make gambling arrests unless a superior officer is present.

The Commission feels that these are eminently sensible reforms insofar as they will tend to limit corruption. However, gambling is traditional and entrenched in many neighborhoods, and it has broad public support. In view of these factors and the severe corruption hazard posed by gambling, the Commission feels that gambling -- including numbers and bookmaking -- should be legalized. To the extent that the legislature feels that the state should impose controls on gambling, such regulation should be by civil rather than criminal process.



i. The Thirteenth Division in Brooklyn, which was at that time the subject of a major anti-corruption investigation, was left intact in order not to jeopardize the investigation. The public explanation for leaving this one division out of the reorganization was that it was to be a "control" against which the performance of the new OCCB could be measured.

ii. There is no division in Staten Island. The three precincts in that borough report directly to borough command.

iii. As a result of the Commission's investigation, the FBI, in October, 1971, raided several policy operations in East Harlem resulting in federal indictments of eight individuals associated with organized crime. The FBI raid uncovered one bank and five numbers spots, one of which also made book on sporting events.

iv. There are no horse races on Sunday, and thus no number.
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 1:45 am

Chapter Five: NARCOTICS

"Police officers have been involved in activities such as extortion of money and/or narcotics from narcotics violators in order to avoid arrest; they have accepted bribes; they have sold narcotics. They have known of narcotics violations and have failed to take proper enforcement action. They have entered into personal associations with narcotics criminals and in some cases have used narcotics. They have given false testimony in court in order to obtain dismissal of the charges against a defendant."

-- Donald F. Cawley, Commander, Inspections Division Testifying before the State Commission of Investigation, April, 1971

Corruption in narcotics law enforcement has grown in recent years to the point where high-ranking police officials acknowledge it to be the most serious problem facing the Department. In the course of its investigation, the Commission became familiar with each of the practices detailed by Chief Cawley, as well as many other corrupt patterns, including:

• Keeping money and/or narcotics confiscated at the time of an arrest or raid.
• Selling narcotics to addict-informants in exchange for stolen goods.
• Passing on confiscated drugs to police informants for sale to addicts.
• "Flaking," or planting narcotics on an arrested person in order to have evidence of a law violation.
• "Padding," or adding to the quantity of narcotics found on an arrested person in order to upgrade an arrest.
• Storing narcotics, needles and other drug paraphernalia in police lockers.
• illegally tapping suspects' telephones to obtain incriminating evidence to be used either in making cases against the suspects, or to blackmail them.
• Purporting to guarantee freedom from police wiretaps for a monthly service charge.
• Accepting money or narcotics from suspected narcotics law violators as payment for the disclosure of official information.
• Accepting money for registering as police informants persons who were in fact giving no information and falsely attributing leads and arrests to them, so that their "cooperation" with the police may win them amnesty for prior misconduct.
• Financing heroin transactions.

In addition to these typical patterns, the Commission learned of numerous individual instances of narcotics-related corrupt conduct on the part of police officers, such as:

• Determining the purity and strength of unfamiliar drugs they had seized by giving small quantities to addict-informants to test on themselves.
• Introducing potential customers to narcotics pushers.
• Revealing the identity of a government informant to narcotics criminals.
• Kidnapping critical witnesses at the time of trial to prevent them from testifying.
• Providing armed protection for narcotics dealers.
• Offering to obtain "hit men" to kill potential witnesses.

There is a traditional unwritten rule among policemen that narcotics graft is "dirty" money not acceptable even to those who take "clean" money from gamblers, bar owners, and the like. However, more relaxed attitudes toward drugs, particularly among young people, and the enormous profits to be derived from drug traffic have combined to make narcotics-related payoffs more acceptable to more and more policemen. According to officers in the Narcotics Division, the widespread narcotics corruption in the unit was well known to both the men and their superiors, all of whom tolerated it at least to the extent that they took no action against those known to be corrupt.

Before the Commission's hearings, the Police Department and other agencies had uncovered individual instances of participation by police officers in the narcotics racket. They had also acquired information indicating substantial participation by members of the Department in narcotics operations that extended from street pushing to large quantity distribution.

As former Supervising Assistant Chief Inspector Chief McGovern pointed out in his testimony before the State Commission of Investigation (SCI), narcotics corruption involves "the largest single category of complaints concerning misconduct by policemen" and is not limited to anyone division of the Department. In the course of its investigation this Commission looked into many allegations concerning narcotics-related corruption in various parts of the Department and found Chief McGovern's observation to be correct. However, the principal target of the Commission's investigation in this area was the Narcotics Division, which had the primary responsibility for narcotics law enforcement at the local level. At the time of the investigation, the division was a separate unit within the Detective Bureau, and had a complement of 782 men divided into two main groups, each with a different level of responsibility.

The field unit, which consisted of seven groups assigned to various critical locations, was charged with the enforcement of narcotics laws at the street level. Some of these groups worked out of precinct houses and others from independent locations. The field groups generally operated in sub-groups of four men.

The other main unit of the Narcotics Division was the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), to which approximately seventy-five officers were assigned. SIU's responsibility was to initiate long-term investigations of narcotics wholesalers in an effort to apprehend those responsible for high-level drug distribution in the City.

In 1968, allegations of irregularities in the Narcotics Division led to an investigation by the Department's Internal Affairs Division. As a result of this investigation, many members of the division, including almost the entire staff of SIU, were gradually transferred out of the Division. However, three years later, this Commission's study of narcotics-related corruption revealed that both sectors of the Narcotics Division were still pervaded by corruption. Within the past year, there has been a nearly one hundred percent turnover in Narcotics Division personnel, but as the present commander of the Division recently told the Commission, the problem of corruption remains.

Patterns of Corruption in Narcotics Law Enforcement

The most common form of narcotics-related police corruption is not the systematic pad common in other areas such as gambling, but the individual score of money, narcotics, or both, seized at the scene of a raid or arrest.

Extortion and Bribe-Taking

In many cases police officers actively extort money and/or drugs from suspected narcotics law violators. Recently, for example, the motel room of a "dealer" (actually a federal undercover agent who was recording the conversation) was raided by two detectives and one patrolman. They found $12,000 in cash on the premises and demanded that the "dealer" surrender $10,000 to avoid arrest. The" dealer" was finally able to persuade them to leave him $4,000 as getaway money. The detectives later paid a $1,000 finder's fee to another detective who had alerted them to the "dealer's" presence in town.

In June, 1972, a dismissed plainclothesman who had been assigned to the Narcotics Division was convicted in New York County and sentenced to up to four years in prison for his part in an extortion scheme which involved six members of the Narcotics Division. According to testimony at the trial, he and two other police officers contacted a restaurant owner and demanded $6,000, threatening to arrest his daughter-in-law on a narcotics charge unless he paid them. They further threatened to send the woman's two children to a foundling home in the event of her arrest. The restaurant owner paid them what they asked.

Within a few months, the same policeman, along with some other members of the unit, again approached the man and demanded an additional $12,000. The man told them to return in a few days, and in the interim he arranged for police surveillance of the next transaction. The plainclothesman was arrested when he accepted a down payment in marked money.

Two of the Commission's informants in the narcotics area were hard-core heroin addicts who, as registered police informants, were able to witness and sometimes record many instances of police profiteering on the street level. While these informants' credibility is necessarily suspect, there is ample evidence from other sources that the extortion practices they described were common occurrences in the Narcotics Division at the time of the Commission's investigation.

They told of participation in police shakedowns of narcotics "cribs" and said that it was standard practice for an informant to find a location where drugs were being sold in large quantities, and by attempting to make a buy with a large denomination bill, to induce the seller to reveal the hiding place of his cash supply. (Sellers in stationary locations try to keep as little money as possible on their person in order to minimize losses in case of an arrest or shakedown.) On leaving, the informant would arrange to return later to make another buy. On his next visit, as the seller opened the door, the police would crash in behind the informant. If the police felt they could score without risk, they would take whatever money and narcotics were available and let the seller go. If the amount of money was small, they would usually arrest the seller but still keep most of the narcotics, turning in only the amount necessary to charge a felony or misdemeanor as the case might be.

The informants stated that three out of every four times they went out on a raid with plainclothesmen from the Narcotics Division, no arrests were made and scores ranged from a few hundred dollars to as much as $20,000 on one occasion, with the informants getting some money and quantities of drugs as compensation.

The Commission found that, even without prompting from the police, it was quite common for an apprehended suspect to offer to pay his captors for his release and for the right to keep part of his narcotics and cash. This was especially true at higher levels of distribution where the profits to be made and the penalties risked by a dealer were very high. One such case was that of a suspended Narcotics Division detective who was recently indicted in Queens County and charged with taking bribes to overlook narcotics offenses. The indictment alleged that this officer accepted $1,500 on one occasion for not arresting a suspected drug pusher who was apprehended while in possession of $15,000 worth of heroin. There is evidence that on another occasion this detective was paid $4,000 by a different narcotics pusher for agreeing not to confiscate $150,000 worth of heroin. The detective has pleaded guilty to attempting to receive a bribe, and his sentence is pending.

Even after arrest, a suspect would sometimes try to pay the arresting officer to leave him enough money for his legal expenses, or to downgrade the arrest by holding back a large part of the seized narcotics, or to make sure that his case would be a "throw-out" in court. Police officers have accomplished this favor by writing up an ambiguous complaint which did not explicitly link the evidence seized in the arrest to the defendant. For example, an officer's affidavit could aver that narcotics had been discovered not on the defendant's person, but on the ground near his feet. In such a case, of course, the evidence would be inadmissible against the defendant and the case would be thrown out.

The opportunity for an arresting officer to score does not end at the scene of an arrest. As suspended patrolman William Phillips told the Commission in the course of his testimony about similar fixed arrest affidavits in gambling cases, "It's never too late to do business." That is, a police officer who is skillful or experienced enough can write an affidavit which appears to be very strong, but is still open-ended enough to work in favor of a defendant when coupled with appropriate testimony from the arresting officer. For example, an officer could state in his complaint that the suspect threw the evidence to the ground at the approach of the police. Should that officer later testify that he lost sight of the evidence as it fell, the evidence and the case could well be dismissed. The Commission learned that it was not uncommon for defense attorneys in narcotics cases to pay policemen for such favors as lying under oath and procuring confidential police and judicial records concerning their clients' cases.

It was, of course, beyond the scope of this Commission to seek out evidence of narcotics-related crime among agencies and officials outside the Police Department. However, the temptation of a police officer to profit illegally from a narcotics arrest could not be examined completely apart from his awareness or suspicion of corruption among those charged with the prosecution and adjudication of cases he has made. Evidence uncovered by the United States Attorney's Office in Manhattan in a current investigation of bribery by heroin dealers confirms the fact that corruption in narcotics law enforcement goes beyond the Police Department and involves prosecutors, attorneys, bondsmen, and allegedly even certain judges. While this fact does not excuse the illegal conduct of policemen who accept bribes, it does serve to illustrate the demoralizing environment in which police are expected to enforce narcotics laws.

The experience of one Narcotics Division detective who worked as an undercover agent for the U.S. Attorney's Office illustrates the pressures many police officers face after making a legitimate narcotics arrest. In a secretly recorded conversation, an attorney for a defendant in a narcotics case offered the detective various amounts ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 to give false testimony on behalf of his defendant. In an earlier recorded conversation, a co-defendant who had won a dismissal of charges told the detective that he had paid the attorney $20,000 to fix the case.

The belief that an officer's efforts to enforce narcotics law have been or may be nullified by dealings higher up in the legal system has in some instances caused members of the Department to rebel against such corruption. Unfortunately, it seems to be much more common for policemen exposed to such high-level corruption to try to get in on the profits. Such was the case of one Tactical Patrol Force officer who was apparently so confident of the acceptability of bribery that he attempted to arrange for a significant narcotics violator to bribe an assistant district attorney. He later pleaded guilty to bribery and resigned from the force after having served in the Department for eighteen years.

Illegal Use of Wiretaps

An extortion attempt by police officers is sometimes the end product of careful surveillance of a target, often by means of wiretaps. The wiretap is an essential tool in the Police Department's efforts to make cases against narcotics law violators. One state official with extensive experience in the enforcement of narcotics laws told the Commission that he didn't know of a single significant narcotics case prosecuted in the New York State courts without evidence or leads obtained through wiretapping, legal or illegal.

Theoretically, police may not secretly tap a suspect's telephone without a warrant. However, since strict constitutional safeguards and a certain amount of red tape surround the procedure for obtaining a warrant, it was not uncommon for Narcotics Division detectives to monitor and record the conversations of suspects without the required court order.

Since the Police Department has no official record of a wiretap installed without a warrant, no arrest is officially expected. Thus, information obtained by means of illegal taps can be used as easily to extort money and drugs from suspects who have been overheard as to make cases against them. Two Narcotics Division detectives were recently observed by a federal undercover agent as they engineered just such a score. The detectives illegally tapped the telephone conversations of a suspect in order to determine the extent of his dealings in narcotics. They then confronted the suspect with the evidence they had against him and threatened to arrest him unless he paid them $50,000. The suspect acceded to their demand and was given his freedom. The undercover agent, a former member of the Narcotics Division, told the Commission that in his experience the case is not unique.

Stealing Money and Narcotics

A score in the narcotics area is by no means dependent upon a suspect's offer or agreement to payoff the police. Most often a police officer seeking to score simply keeps for himself all or part of the money and drugs confiscated during a raid or arrest. One former member of the Narcotics Division recently assigned to other duties told the Commission that in his experience eighty to ninety percent of the members of the Narcotics Division participated in at least this type of score. While it was not possible for the Commission to verify this estimate, Commission investigators did ascertain that the holding back of money or narcotics contraband is very common and not limited to the Narcotics Division or other special squads.

The Commission learned of several sizable scores made by policemen during narcotics arrests. One such score was described by a plainclothesman in a secretly recorded conversation with Patrolman William Phillips. He told Phillips of an arrest he had made where $137,000 was turned in to the Department while three policemen split an additional $80,000.

Captain Daniel McGowan, then assigned to the Department's Public Morals Administrative Division, testified before the Commission about one matter he had investigated involving the arrest of several people and the confiscation of $150,000. Of this amount, McGowan stated, only $50,000 was turned in, the arresting officers keeping $100,000 for themselves.

Dismissed Patrolman Waverly Logan testified before the Commission about similar stealing, albeit on a lesser scale, by members of the elite Preventive Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Squad. Logan told the Commission that in his experience it was very common for arresting officers to keep confiscated money and drugs for themselves, and he gave many examples of the practice. After one narcotics arrest, for example, Logan and two other patrolmen vouchered $200 and held back $300 to divide among themselves. Later, Logan said, he discovered that one of the arresting officers had pocketed still another $500 which he had seized during the arrest. After another arrest during which Logan had scored $200, he watched from the precinct house window as another patrolman and a sergeant from his squad searched the suspect's car. The sergeant took a black fur coat from the trunk of the car and hid it in his own, while the patrolman walked away with a stereo tape device and several tape cassettes. Other situations described by Logan indicate that theft by police of furnishings and other personal property from premises where a narcotics raid had taken place were not uncommon.

Logan testified that his PEP Squad sergeant taught him the various techniques of scoring, and that such scoring was standard police procedure among his fellow officers. Logan told of one arrest he made where he did turn in all the money and contraband that he had seized. At the precinct station house where he vouchered the evidence, no one would believe that he was turning in the full amount of money confiscated. No matter how much money an arresting officer vouchered, Logan testified, other officers always assumed that he had kept back some for himself. As a result, in Logan's words:

"When you're new, you turn in all the money. But when you're working on the job awhile, you turn in no money. That's been my experience, that you don't voucher no money, or you voucher very little of what you made when a boss is there, and the boss is straight."

At the Commission hearings, Waverly Logan also described the attitude of some members of the Department that even if narcotics bribes are "dirty money," thefts from arrested drug dealers are "clean":

"[T]he general feeling was that the man was going to jail, was going to get what was coming to him, so why should you give him back his money and let him bail himself out. In a way we felt that he was a narcotics pusher, we knew he was a narcotics pusher, we kind of felt he didn't deserve no rights since he was selling narcotics."

This rationalization, certainly a departure from the unwritten rule that not even a "bad cop" would make money in narcotics, was repeated in various terms by other police officers. One former detective in the Narcotics Division told the Commission that money taken from a narcotics dealer or pusher is considered to be "clean" by police officers because no innocent person is directly injured by such a score. Former Detective Frank Serpico testified about the same attitude in hearings before the SCl. "Something that is accepted in narcotics," Serpico said, "is the fact that ... if you were to make an arrest and there were large sums of money, that the money would be confiscated and not vouchered and the rationale there is the City is going to get it anyway and why shouldn't they." Serpico said that policemen who take money in this way do not worry that the arrested person will complain, because a narcotics team usually consists of four men, and "[t]he feeling is that it is his word against theirs."

Waverly Logan, on the other hand, apparently was bothered by the fact that arrested suspects might complain about having their money stolen by the police. Although he continued to make scores, Logan testified that he began to let suspects go after he had taken their money, so that they would be less likely to complain. This practice was in keeping with the philosophy of scoring taught to Logan by his sergeant: "[W]hen you are scoring a guy, try to leave him happy. If you leave a guy happy, he won't beef, won't make a complaint against you." Logan explained in his testimony that this could be accomplished even after a large amount of money was taken from a suspect by releasing him with enough of his narcotics to get him back into business.

It is clear from evidence assembled by this Commission and by other investigatory agencies that Waverly Logan's experiences and attitude with respect to holding back money and drugs are not unique in the Department. During the SC1 public hearings on police corruption in narcotics law enforcement, a former Narcotics Division patrolman who had been convicted for supplying a heroin addict with narcotics to sell on the streets for him was asked to reveal the source of his heroin supply. He testified that one of the ways in which he obtained narcotics was to take it from dope addicts in the street, without making an arrest.

Q. Was this a common thing in the Narcotics Division?

A. That's where I learned it from.

Q. You learned it from other members of the Narcotics Division?

A. Yes.


Q. Would you say this practice was generally known not only to the patrolmen and detectives, but by superiors?

A. I would.

Q. And on what basis do you make that statement?

A. Being an ex-officer and knowing the routine of the office. It was pretty general knowledge what went on in the streets.


Q. In addition to obtaining narcotics in the fashion you just described, were there ever occasions where you would make an arrest but hold back the amount seized?

A. That is true.

Q. Was that practice also common with the Narcotics Division?

A. It was.

Another detective, assigned to a squad in Queens, had been a full partner in a narcotics wholesale enterprise, and testified at the same hearings that when he decided to join the partnership, he discussed with fellow officers the fact that at least part of his heroin supply would come from holding back large quantities of heroin from important narcotics arrests.

In addition to sale at a profit, either directly or through addict-pushers, drugs seized and retained by police officers were put to a variety of illegal uses by police, including payment of finder's fees to police informants and payment to addicts for merchandise stolen to order for policemen. Narcotics retained from prior arrests are also used for "padding," that is, for adding to the quantity of narcotics found on a subsequently arrested person, thus enabling the arresting officer to upgrade the charge to a felony. It is also common to use illegally retained narcotics to "flake" a narcotics suspect, that is, to plant evidence on a person in order to make a narcotics arrest.

Flaking and Padding

Flaking and padding sometimes result from the frustration a police officer feels when he is unable to catch a known narcotics law violator in the actual commission of a crime. An obvious danger is that an officer who can rationalize the illegal arrest of a known narcotics dealer is not far from making easy arrests of persons merely suspected of dealing in narcotics. Traditionally this danger has been magnified by the fact that certain commands in the Narcotics Division required a minimum number of felony arrests per month, usually four, from each officer who hoped for promotion or wished to avoid a transfer back to uniform.

Waverly Logan, in his testimony before the Commission, told of an occasion when he flaked a suspect. He had arrested a suspected narcotics seller and planted four bags of narcotics on him. At the precinct house the prisoner told two narcotics detectives how the arrest had been made. One of the detectives then took Logan aside and carefully instructed him on how to write up the complaint in order to make the case stick.

Former Patrolman Edward Droge explained that padding is sometimes prompted by the fact that smart dealers, who know that the possession of certain amounts of narcotics constitutes a felony rather than a misdemeanor charge, make sure that the quantity of narcotics they carry is somewhat less than the felony amount. When an arrest is made that involves narcotics just short of the felony amount, Droge said, an officer merely has to add a few bags from his own supply. During the SCI public hearings on police corruption, one patrolman testified that padding can also be accomplished by mixing the seized narcotics with adulterants such as quinine and mannitol.

Possession and Sale of Narcotics

Former Assistant Chief Inspector Sydney Cooper, who commanded the Department's Internal Affairs Division and later headed the Special Force established to investigate cases referred to the Department by our Commission, said in a televised interview in August, 1972:

"We have had cases where allegations were made and the investigations disclosed that policemen became active entrepreneurs in narcotics operations. They were either suppliers of drugs [or] they themselves were sellers of drugs; or they ran shotgun."

The Commission found that police officers were involved in possession and sale of narcotics in a variety of ways, including financing transactions, recruiting informants and addicts as pushers, and share-selling, where the pusher is given drugs on consignment and retains part of the proceeds as payment. In addition, the Commission found it common for police officers to use narcotics as a medium of exchange for goods and services.

The Commission's two addict-informants reported that while acting as registered police informants they had carried on a lively business selling various items to the police for narcotics. Goods sold included guns, liquor, beer, tires, typewriters, clothes, cigarettes, power tools, and other specialty items. The informants stated that in most instances the merchandise was stolen and that the police knew that the items were "hot." On some occasions, the informants purchased merchandise and sold it to the police for narcotics because they could receive more narcotics from the police than the cash expended on the merchandise would have purchased directly. If they had to steal and hock or fence merchandise to get cash for narcotics, the amount of merchandise required would increase four- or fivefold as opposed to selling the goods to police officers for more or less the direct equivalent value in narcotics.

The informants explained that obtaining their narcotics by selling merchandise to police officers greatly reduced their risk. Obviously not only would the police not arrest them for the transaction, but after having committed crimes under police auspices, they would run much less risk of arrest for crimes committed on their own account.

The Commission was able to verify the allegations that merchandise- for-drugs transactions between police officers and addicts were commonplace. The informants, wearing microphones and transmitters, were observed, and in some instances filmed, by Commission agents as police officers approached them and placed their orders. In each instance at least two Commission agents were on hand for surveillance of the transaction, and the conversations between the police and the informants were recorded on tape. The merchandise the informants traded for narcotics was supplied by the Commission.

One plainclothesman, in the middle of a narcotics-for-cigarettes transaction ordered a gasoline powered mini-bike. The informant explained that it was still daylight and that he could not conveniently and easily steal a mini-bike in Central Park until sundown. The officer indicated he didn't care about the informant's troubles in obtaining a mini-bike, he just wanted it and, emphatically, that night. The Commission could hardly have permitted its agents to participate in a robbery or larceny, so, since no funds were available to purchase a mini-bike, that particular transaction was not consummated.

On another occasion, while the two informants were stationed outside headquarters with a bag of merchandise, the Commission filmed and recorded a dozen or more police officers approaching them to ask what was available.

Later the same morning, one patrolman was recorded on film opening the trunk of his car and instructing the informants to put in four bottles of liquor that he was purchasing. The patrolman went into headquarters, came down again, directed the informants to enter his car, and drove around the block. While driving around the block he gave each of the informants a bag containing a white powder which was later found to be heroin valued at about $30. Commission agents observed the two informants leaving the car and immediately took the narcotics from them for analysis.

Among the completed drugs-for-merchandise transactions were several involving whiskey and other alcoholic beverages. In one of these a narcotics plainclothesman gave the two Commission informants a written list specifying thirty-one quart bottles by brand name. He told them to make sure to "come through because I need them for my daughter's wedding shower." The patrolman paid for the liquor with a quantity of white powder containing heroin, starch, quinine, and mannitol.

The police officers who dealt with the informants made little effort to conceal what they were doing. One police officer in uniform met with the informants in a doorway two houses east of the Twenty-Eighth Precinct in Harlem, took from them two large bags containing eight quart bottles of whiskey, and walked back into the station house. He passed the patrolman on guard duty at the doorway and returned shortly to pay the informants with narcotics he said he had just removed from his station house locker. Earlier, when this officer had consummated a similar transaction while in plainclothes and was asked by one of the informants if he wanted the whiskey surreptitiously placed in his car, he grabbed the whiskey and stated, "I am going to walk down the street like I own it."

In all, ten transactions involving the sale of supposedly stolen merchandise to police officers in return for narcotics were recorded by Commission personnel within a period of a few weeks. The police involved included men assigned to the Narcotics Division as well as to local precincts. In addition, approximately twenty additional transactions which the informants said they could arrange were not consummated because of reported changes of plans by police officers, inability to muster sufficient Commission personnel to monitor the transactions properly, or the excessive expense of the items ordered. One scheduled sale was, according to the informants, postponed by the plainclothesman involved because he had to attend a Department anti-corruption meeting.

A police officer who pays in narcotics to have addict-informants steal for him or supply information to him is not far from the realization that he can pay in drugs to have informants push heroin for him.

One witness told the Commission in private that before he had been rehabilitated and took over the leadership of a drug program, he had been a very heavy user-pusher. For a while during this period he had become one of several share sellers for a group of three police officers, two of whom were still on the force as detectives in SIU at the time the witness testified. Although the association had been terminated for more than a year, the former addict said he lived in constant fear of these police officers.

Another similar case which resulted in the conviction of a police officer involved a young woman, the addict mother of several children, who had been arrested on information supplied by her mother and her boyfriend, who hoped she would be treated. The arresting officer, a member of the Narcotics Division, persuaded her to become an informant and continued to supply her with large quantities of narcotics. The arresting officer later introduced her to a "gangster" -- actually another member of the Narcotics Division -- and together, by threatening to harm her children, they forced her into becoming a share-seller pusher.

Eventually her boyfriend complained to the Internal Affairs Division and an arrest was made. At one point during the investigation, the patrolman kidnapped the victim and held her in captivity while trying to frighten her into refraining from testifying against him.

This patrolman obtained the narcotics he was supplying for sale in part from holding back narcotics seized in arrests and from taking narcotics from addicts in the street without making arrests. As he testified at the SCI public hearings on narcotics-related police corruption, he obtained the balance of the drugs he was pushing from a fellow police officer. The other patrolman asked no questions when he was approached for drugs because "it was a pretty regular thing for one officer to give narcotics to another officer." The patrolman also stated that he had chosen this particular fellow officer to ask for narcotics merely because he knew him better than some of the others, but that he could well have approached many other men in the unit and made the same request.

Several policemen have been investigated and prosecuted in the past three years for their involvement in large-quantity narcotics businesses. In the case of one police officer who was convicted for selling narcotics, it was clear from the evidence that during the period covered by the charges, from the summer of 1970 to December, 1970, he had been a wholesaler of substantial amounts of cocaine. The conviction was obtained largely through the cooperation of another arrested former policeman, who on several occasions had acted as a distributor for him. The evidence included a secretly-recorded conversation in which the defendant discussed the possible effects of his distributor's arrest on his cocaine operation, the possibility of fixing the colleague's case, and the desirability of killing the informant who was responsible for the arrest.

Another police officer, while under investigation by the Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, recently arranged a significant heroin transaction for a federal undercover agent who had been introduced to the police officer as a potential customer. Until his recent arrest and conviction on an unrelated charge of narcotics possession, this patrolman is believed to have been involved in the interstate transport of large quantities of heroin.

One probationary patrolman was recently sentenced to ten years in prison for selling narcotics and to a concurrent five-year term for the possession of a large quantity of narcotics. The patrolman had aroused departmental suspicions because he was often seen in the company of known narcotics addicts. He was finally arrested when he sold fifty bags of heroin to a Police Department undercover agent.

A former Narcotics Division detective, while a member of the force, financed a narcotics wholesale business that dealt in one-eighth kilo quantities of heroin. He obtained some of the heroin he used for resale from an underworld connection, a wholesaler in narcotics.

In the SCI public hearings this police officer testified that he tried to protect his investment by providing armed protection for drug deliveries. He would watch the transactions from a convenient vantage point, he said, prepared to intervene with a loaded weapon in the event of trouble from outsiders, or to intercede with fellow police officers in the event of a threatened arrest.

For his participation in this multi-kilo heroin operation, the officer was indicted in Queens County and charged with conspiracy to sell heroin and with four counts of official misconduct. He pleaded guilty to one count of official misconduct, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to one year of probation.

Miscellaneous Narcotics-Related Corruption

Policemen have been involved in many other illegal activities connected with narcotics traffic. They have tipped off narcotics dealers to impending arrests and raids and have sold the contents of confidential police files to narcotics suspects. Some police officers have accepted bribes to provide information on the existence, duration, and results of telephone taps, and a few even have collected a monthly fee to guarantee suspected narcotics law violators freedom from taps by the Police Department. In addition, policemen have interceded for known narcotics criminals -- both with their fellow officers, and in at least one instance, with an assistant district attorney.

An investigation conducted by local authorities in Brooklyn, which led to the exposure of a narcotics wholesale ring that was responsible for the monthly distribution of 1.5 million dollars' worth of heroin, revealed that a New York City patrolman provided armed protection as the ring made its deliveries.

In at least one case, a policeman has provided rental automobiles for a known narcotics criminal, so that any law enforcement officer suspecting one of the vehicles and checking the license plate would discover only that the car was rented to a police officer.

Members of the Narcotics Division have helped known narcotic violators win amnesty or leniency from district attorneys' offices by fraudulently registering them as police informants and attributing arrests and leads from other sources to these "informants" on official Department records.

Captain Daniel McGowan testified before the Commission about another serious instance of narcotics-related police crime. "[W]e received the information from three separate independent sources," Captain McGowan testified, "that a member of our Narcotics Bureau learned the identity of an East Harlem character who was an informant for the Federal Narcotics Bureau and the allegation was that he passed this information on to the organized crime people in that area, that the informant was subsequently taken upstate and murdered, and the detective was paid $5,000."

The Commission observed and taped one conversation between a plainclothesman and a registered informant that revealed an especially brutal instance of police misbehavior. The conversation concerned a quantity of heroin seized and not turned in by the officer at the time of an arrest a few days earlier. Since no part of the narcotics had been reported through official channels, the officer would never receive a lab report on the nature, strength, and purity of the narcotics. As the conversation progressed, it became clear that the police officer had given the addict a certain quantity of the untested drugs earlier in the day to test on himself to make sure that it was safe for sale to others. If the drug had been pure heroin, causing the addict to take an overdose, or if it had been a dangerous substance, the addict would have been unlikely to complain even if he had survived.


It is extremely difficult to estimate the effect of police corruption on the volume of narcotics traffic in New York City. The SCI, upon completing a thorough analysis of the performance of the Narcotics Division in recent years, concluded that in a great number of cases the Department's enforcement effort in narcotics has been completely wasted. However, as the SCI explained in its 1972 Annual Report, this failure was due to a variety of factors besides corruption, including the congestion of the courts and the Narcotics Division's chronic shortage of modern equipment and adequate training and supervision.

In his statement of April 20, 1971, before the SCI, Police Commissioner Murphy insisted that "corruption is not a significant factor either in the incidence of narcotics addiction or in the volume of narcotics traffic."
Whatever the validity of his conclusion, Commissioner Murphy correctly pointed out in his statement that the international market structure of narcotics distribution, together with large-scale demand for illegal drugs and the high profitability of narcotics dealing severely limit the ability of local police to deal with the narcotics problem. This would be true even of the most honest and efficient police force.

It is also true, however, that the public depends very heavily on the local police for protection against narcotics-related crime. The role of the policeman in combating this crime is a vital link in the total federal, state, and local response to the narcotics crisis, and this link is certainly being eroded by the growing corruption problem in the Department. The SCI, which observed that the operations of the Narcotics Division in recent years would have been ineffective even in the absence of corruption, went on to say in its Annual Report that "[w]ith the added ingredient of corruption, local enforcement became a tragic farce."

Of course, it is unfair of some City residents to assume that the existence anywhere of conspicuous narcotics trading proves that policemen are either directly involved or are being paid to close their eyes to the illegal activity. Very often, it is not police corruption, but the overcrowding of the courts and the penal system, and the difficult standard of proof required to convict an arrested suspect that are to blame for the apparent non-enforcement of narcotics laws. Nevertheless, there is enough affirmative evidence of narcotics-related police corruption to justify a loss of public confidence in the Department and to diminish the self-esteem of its members. To some extent the public may understand, if not condone, police involvement in so-called victimless crimes such as gambling. But the complicity of some policemen in narcotics dealing -- a crime considered utterly heinous by a large segment of society -- inevitably has a devastating effect on the public's attitude toward the Department.

As long as society deems it necessary to invoke criminal sanctions m the narcotics area, the Commission believes that the Department must continue to assume responsibility for the enforcement of laws forbidding the sale and possession of narcotics. Of course increased study and attention should be given to ways other than criminal sanctions for dealing with narcotics addiction, but meanwhile, the Department must direct its attention to ways of improving the efficiency and integrity of its anti-narcotics units.

After its year-long study of the operations of the Narcotics Division, the SCI pointed out a number of specific areas in which it felt the Department could improve the effectiveness of its narcotics law enforcement efforts. Among other improvements, the SCI recommended increased supervision and coordination of investigative activities, stricter control of procedures for handling contraband, and the elimination of the quota system as a method of evaluating police performance. The SCI also recommended that the Department's enforcement efforts be directed away from indiscriminate drug loitering arrests and toward making good cases against high-level drug distributors.

In the past year the Department has instituted many salutary changes in narcotics law enforcement, including many of the improvements proposed by the SCI. For example, the Department has to some extent done away with the traditional distinction between SIU and the field units. Now the primary mission of both is to conduct long range investigations leading to the arrest of those responsible for drug distribution at the highest levels. Investigations are to be closely directed and coordinated from headquarters -- a change which should result in less free-lancing by individual teams of investigators and therefore less opportunity for officers to exploit an arrest or raid situation for their own profit.

With an influx of new sergeants into the division, the ratio of supervisors to investigators has dropped to one to six. Thus each investigator will be under closer supervision in the field. This should lessen the opportunity for scoring by investigators. It should also provide a police officer's superiors with a method of rating his field performance that is more dependable and certainly less subject to abuse than the discredited quota system. Sergeants are now expected to accompany their men on important arrests, and in some cases, to make the actual arrest and take custody of the seized narcotics. New handling and reporting procedures have been designed to make it much more difficult for an officer who has confiscated narcotics to avoid turning them in to the Department.

When a police officer keeps for himself a portion of confiscated narcotics he is not always acting from corrupt motives. The Department's practice in the past of not providing money to pay informants, who usually are addicts themselves, created great pressure on police officers to use seized narcotics to pay for information. Money is now being made available for paying informants and this temptation, which often can be the first step to more serious illegal behavior, should be reduced as a result.

These and other improvements represent an important step in making narcotics graft less accessible to police officers. But as Chief Inspector William T. Bonacum, the commander of the Narcotics Division, recently told the Commission, such changes are meaningless unless the desire of his men to score in the narcotics area can be eliminated. To this end, Chief Bonacum has been conducting regular anti-corruption meetings with his men to keep them aware of the dangers of corruption and to instill in them the desire to make their division corruption-free. In addition, he meets regularly with individual members of the division to discover their problems and to keep them personally apprised of division policies. A complete change in attitude from the toleration of corruption that the Commission found to be prevalent in the division is necessarily a long-range goal. In the meantime, the Department can help to suppress narcotics corruption by dealing effectively with corruption in other areas where it is usually considered less serious. Unchecked corruption anywhere in the Department creates a climate of permissiveness that makes it easier for a police officer to overcome his natural reluctance to become involved in narcotics traffic.
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 2:13 am


Q. Do the police ever bother you?

A. Not here, get off ... Not here. Are you kidding? Are you for real? No way, honey. No way."

-- Recorded conversation between a Commission investigator and the hostess of a prostitute bar.

In its investigation into prostitution, the Commission was able to find little hard evidence of regular payments to police for protection from arrest. It did find specific evidence that some madams occasionally pay police officers on a one-time basis, and considerable circumstantial evidence that police protection on a regular basis is available to bars and nightclubs acting openly as the base of operations for large numbers of prostitutes.

The investigation into possible police connections with prostitution was focused mainly on the East Side of Manhattan from 40th Street to 80th Street, from Park Avenue to First Avenue, which takes in parts of the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Precincts. The principal factor in selecting this area was that it afforded a convenient view of several different forms of prostitution, namely brothels, independent call girls, streetwalkers, and prostitutes who work openly out of bars. Investigators interviewed prostitutes and madams, infiltrated and conducted surveillances of brothels and prostitute-bars, and used confidential informants who were sometimes equipped with electronic recording equipment.

Police Attitudes Toward Accepting Payoffs from Prostitutes

Prostitution in New York, while widespread, is unequivocally illegal and would seem to be a likely target for corrupt police officers. However, it is an unwritten rule among policemen that taking money from prostitutes is unduly risky. Patrolman Phillips testified that the advice he was given by older officers when he joined the force was "never to take money in narcotics, prostitution, or involving weapons. " He conceded that the rule has broken down concerning narcotics, but that for the most part it still holds concerning prostitutes. When asked why it was considered a bad idea to get involved with prostitutes, he explained the prevailing attitudes of policemen toward prostitutes, "[W]ell, first of all, prostitutes are known to be dangerous people to deal with. They are unreliable and they give people up. People [policemen] shy away from them. " This conventional wisdom, coupled with the fact that other more lucrative sources of payoff money were available, apparently acted as a brake on police involvement with prostitution.


Although the Commission encountered several brothels in the course of its investigation, its efforts focused on one in particular which seemed fairly typical in its operations. The madam of the establishment was a foreign national who had operated her business at varying East Side locations over the preceding two years. She employed from two to ten prostitutes and a maid who served drinks to customers.

Commission investigators held a number of interviews with her, during which she described several episodes in which she said she had paid off policemen in the past. To protect her operation from police interference, the madam said she utilized several precautionary measures. She had an arrangement with the building doorman to notify her through a series of buzzer rings of any suspicious police activity in the vicinity. She used a free-lance chauffeur to pass payments to individual police officers to head off impending raids. And, lastly, through her boy friend, she cultivated a friendship with a sergeant who she claimed served as her unofficial contact man within the Police Department and who allegedly agreed to warn her of any raids he knew about but couldn't head off.

The madam said that the friendly sergeant told her on January 18, 1971, that a lieutenant in the "vice squad" knew about her operation, was planning to arrest her, and that the lieutenant wanted $1,000 for calling off the arrest. The sergeant told her that he thought the lieutenant would settle for $500, which she gave him for transmittal to the lieutenant. She said she believed the sergeant gave the money to the lieutenant either that evening or the next day.

Six weeks later, according to the madam, a free-lance limousine chauffeur of her acquaintance called to tell her that there were two uniformed police officers downstairs in her building, but that he knew them and for a payment of $200 to each officer could stop them from coming up and arresting her. The chauffeur went up to the madam's apartment, she gave him the money, and the officers went away. She said that the payoff was witnessed by one of her girls and by the building doorman.

The following evening three plainclothesmen entered the madam's apartment and arrested her. She was charged with a felony for operating a house of prostitution, a charge which could have led to her deportation.

A month later, the establishment was raided for a second time. Plainclothesmen confiscated the madam's client and cashbooks and demanded $400 for their return, which the madam paid. The charges against her were reduced to a violation.

At this point, apparently tired of being raided, the madam designated an associate of hers to explore the possibility of obtaining regular police protection. Unbeknownst to her, this associate was working as an undercover informant for the Commission and wore a transmitter during most of the subsequent conversations, allowing Commission investigators to substantiate the following account.

The informant was introduced by a third party to Patrolman William Phillips (starting the chain of events that led to his being uncovered by the Commission). Phillips negotiated with the informant and the madam, and they were able to agree on a figure of $1,100 a month to be paid by the madam for protection of her operation, with the money to be distributed among plainclothesmen at precinct, division, and borough levels. Phillips told her that this arrangement would provide a 98% guarantee of protection against arrests and raids. To cover the remaining 2%, a code was established whereby the police would notify the madam in advance of any pending raid by calling up and making an appointment for "Mr. White from Chicago."

During the same period -- and also documented by undercover tape recordings -- the madam asked Phillips for help in gaining a dismissal of the felony charge she faced as the result of her first arrest for running a house of prostitution. If convicted, she would have been subject to deportation as an undesirable alien, as in fact she ultimately was. She spoke to Phillips and asked him if he could help her. Phillips agreed to get in touch with the arresting officer in the case and try to arrange for him to alter his testimony. After considerable bargaining, Phillips persuaded the madam to pay $3,500 and the arresting officer to accept $2,500, with Phillips keeping the remaining $1,000. The madam paid $1,500 to Phillips before the trial, and Phillips passed some of the money on to the arresting officer, who arrived late for the trial, after the madam's attorney had made a deal with the prosecutor whereby the felony charge was dropped and the madam pleaded guilty to a violation for disorderly conduct. Since the arresting officer had been of no help, the madam balked at paying the $2,000 she still owed, and Phillips eventually settled for $1,000, of which he gave half to the arresting officer.

In this last incident, it is noteworthy that the arresting officer never approached the madam asking for money and that he was drawn in only after she approached him through Phillips.

The madam told the Commission that she knows of two other madams who had paid off the police in the past. Another madam, running a similar operation, told Commission investigators that during a ten-month period she had paid plainclothesmen twice in amounts of $1,000 and $800. She said that she finally changed her location to avoid paying. Other madams interviewed by Commission investigators denied ever having been asked by policemen for money, but they did say that they charged half price to members of the force, which would in itself assure a certain amount of police protection.

The latest dodge used by brothels to avoid police interference is that of masquerading as massage parlors. According to the owner of one such parlor who was interviewed by a Commission attorney, a customer pays the massage parlor a fee for his massage and then makes whatever private arrangements he chooses with the "masseuse." However, the owner also said that he hires streetwalkers as his masseuses, which must have some effect on the nature of the massages offered. The set-up is a very private one, similar to that of private call girls, and as such is not a likely target for police shakedowns.

Prostitute Bars

There are several bars in the midtown area which the Commission found acted as bases of operations for large numbers of prostitutes. Most were operated very openly, in a manner similar to one described by Patrolman Phillips:

"I had observed [one bar] for about half an hour-forty-five minutes -- and I saw the same woman go in and out with two different men ... I informed [the sergeant] of what I had observed ... and he said, 'Well, don't worry about it. I don't think it's anything. It's a real busy bar.'

"And later I found out through my own information that the place was a large call girl operation ... There is no way that this place could operate without paying somebody. It was just too wide open."

Owners of such bars are extremely vulnerable to police interference, since they run their business at fixed addresses which are very visible to the public and to the police. In addition, if a bar owner were convicted of promoting prostitution, or even permitting it, he would lose his liquor license. The investigation concentrated on two particular bars, but no hard evidence of police payoffs was found.

In the first of these bars, girls sat at tables in twos and threes. When a customer entered, he was approached by the hostess and directed to a table. If she approved of him as a customer, she would direct one of the girls to join him. All contacts between male and female customers were directed strictly by the hostess or bartender. After one or two drinks, the couple would leave and go to one of the better hotels in the area. The rate was a minimum of $50, plus the cost of drinks consumed and, in some cases, a non-existent dinner.

The manager of this bar never admitted paying off the police but the hostess confidently stated that she was not worried about being arrested. Such assurance in view of the notoriety and openness of the operation leaves room for the possibility of a police fix, although it could be simply a case of police inaction.

The manager of a similar operation freely admitted that prostitution was the most lucrative part of his business, and that without it he would have to close his bar. Again, the Commission obtained no admissions or direct evidence substantiating police involvement. Yet, the bar was a notorious operation which was the subject of 100 police visits within a six-month period, although none of these resulted in the issuance of a single summons.

Call Girls and Streetwalkers

Call girls work very privately from their apartments, accepting only known or recommended customers by phone appointment. They are the least conspicuous of all prostitutes and consequently the least vulnerable to police interference. The Commission did hear allegations of payments made on a haphazard basis by call girls to individual policemen, but these allegations were unsubstantiated.

The Commission found no evidence that police officers shake down streetwalkers, although we heard numerous allegations -- from policemen as well as prostitutes -- that policemen often arrest women they assume to be prostitutes without obtaining any evidence that the women are actually soliciting. Before an officer can make a legally valid arrest of a prostitute, she must solicit him in explicit terms. Because most streetwalkers simply approach prospective customers and ask, "Want a date?" then discuss price, a legitimate arrest is difficult to make. Instead, officers will often just pick up women loitering in the target area and later claim in court that they were solicited for explicit sexual purposes. Such arrests are resorted to particularly when public pressure mounts to "clean up" one area or another. Streetwalkers are the most overt of all prostitutes and would seem to be the most vulnerable of all to police interference. However, such interference takes the form of arrests rather than shakedowns. One reason for this may be that streetwalkers carry very little money with them, turning their earnings over almost hourly to their pimps, and thus would not be very profitable sources of payoffs. A more likely explanation is the fact that streetwalkers are considered unstable, slovenly, disagreeable characters, many of whom are addicts, and even very dishonest police officers are probably loathe to deal with them. In addition, the relatively mild sanctions of the law make arrest only an inconvenience for them.


Whether or not prostitutes regularly payoff the police, it is clear that current police practices have had little effect on curtailing illegal prostitution. Prostitutes operate openly and are likely to continue to do so. Although the Commission's investigation turned up little hard evidence of extensive or organized corruption of police by prostitutes, the Department itself recognizes prostitution as a definite corruption hazard. In other jurisdictions attempts have been made to solve the problem by legalizing prostitution but that step has had mixed success and involves social judgments beyond this Commission's purview. At this time, the Commission can offer no alternative to police enforcement of the anti-prostitution laws, with all its incumbent problems.
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 2:46 am


"It is virtually impossible for a builder to erect a building within the City of New York and comply with every statute and ordinance in connection with the work. In short, many of the statutes and rules and regulations are not only unrealistic but lead to the temptation for corruption."

So said H. Earl Fullilove, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Building Trades Employers Association of the City of New York, in testimony before the Commission on October 29, 1971, summing up a situation which has led to extensive graft in the construction industry. The Commission found that payments to the police by contractors and subcontractors were the rule rather than exceptions and constituted a major source of graft to the uniformed police. It must be noted that policemen were not alone in receiving payoffs from contractors. Much larger payoffs were made to inspectors and permit-granting personnel from other agencies.

The Investigation

In its initial investigation into corruption in the construction industry, the Commission came up against a stone wall. Sixteen veteran job superintendents and two project managers interviewed at construction sites solemnly denied that they had ever paid off the police or known anyone who had. Similar denials were made under oath by other construction people and by three patrolmen and their precinct commander, who were subpoenaed by the Commission. Later, in private talks with members of the construction industry, quite a different story began to emerge. From information obtained in these lengthy, off-the-record interviews, the Commission was able to piece together a detailed picture of corruption in the construction industry.

Although several of these sources were unusually helpful to the Commission in private talks, only one agreed to testify extensively in executive session (and then only under the cloak of anonymity) and none would testify at the public hearings. Their testimony could at no time be compelled, because the Commission lacked the power to obviate claims of Fifth Amendment privileges by conferring immunity. However, it was arranged that the construction industry would be represented at the public hearings by Mr. Fullilove, whose association is made up of 800 contractors and subcontractors, including .industry giants as well as smaller companies.

Speaking for his membership, Mr. Fullilove said, "Many -- if not most -- people in the industry are reluctant to appear at an open hearing and to testify on these matters. Our members feel that unless the entire situation can be remedied in one fell swoop, it's a tremendous burden on a member to become a hero for a day and then suffer the consequential individual harassment." He then went on to detail the laws and ordinances leading to police harassment and consequent graft. This information was corroborated and buttressed by the testimony of Patrolmen William Phillips and Waverly Logan.

Reasons for Police Corruption in Relation to Construction

Corruption is a fact of life in the construction industry. In addition to extensive payoffs contractors make to police and others in regulatory agencies, there is evidence of considerable corruption within the industry itself. Contractors have been known to pay owners' agents to get an inside track on upcoming jobs; subcontractors pay contractors' purchasing agents to receive projects or to get information helpful in competitive bidding; sub-subcontractors pay subcontractors; dump-truck drivers exact a per-load payment for taking out extra loads they don't report to their bosses; and hoist engineers get money from various subcontractors to insure that materials are lifted to high floors without loss or damage. In this climate, it is only natural that contractors also pay the police.

The heart of the problem of police corruption in the construction industry is the dizzying array of laws, ordinances, and regulations governing construction in the City. To put up a building in New York, a builder is required to get a minimum of forty to fifty different permits and licenses from various City departments. For a very large project, the total number of permits needed may soar to 120, 130 or more. These permits range in importance from the initial building permit down through permits required for erecting fences, wooden walkways and construction shanties, to seemingly petty ones like that required whenever a track vehicle is moved across a sidewalk. "This [latter] regulation is often violated," Mr. Fullilove told the Commission, "because it is tremendous inconvenience to obtain a one-shot permit to move a bulldozer over a five-foot stretch of sidewalk." In practice, most builders don't bother to get all the permits required by law. Instead, they apply for a handful of the more important ones (often making a payoff to personnel at the appropriate agency to insure prompt issuance of the permit). Payments to the police and inspectors from other departments insure that builders won't be hounded for not having other permits.

Of the City ordinances enforced by the police which affect construction, most relate to use of the streets and sidewalks and to excessive dust and noise. Ordinances most troublesome to contractors are those which prohibit double-parking, flying dust, obstructing the sidewalk, or leaving it strewn with piles of sand and rubble, and beginning work before 7:00 a.m. or continuing after 6:00 p.m. (This last is for the protection of neighborhood residents already subject to eleven legal hours a day of construction noise.)

Most large contractors seem to regard all of the ordinances mentioned above and many of the permit requirements simply as nuisances which interfere with efficient construction work. Thus, they are willing parties to a system which free s them from strict adherence to the regulations.

Police Enforcement of Laws Regulating Construction

Although building inspectors are responsible for enforcement of regulations concerning construction techniques, the responsibility for inspecting certain permits and enforcing the ordinances outlined above lies with the police. The police officers charged with this responsibility have always been faced with a particularly tempting opportunity for corruption. The Department has attempted, since the Commission hearings, to lessen the opportunities by cutting back on enforcement. It has ordered its men to stop enforcing all laws pertaining to construction, unless pedestrians are endangered or traffic is impeded. If a patrolman observes a condition which affects pedestrians or traffic, he is to call his superior to come to the site and take whatever action is needed. Nevertheless, pending a revision of the laws to make them more realistic, they cannot go entirely unenforced and whoever is given the job will meet the same pressures found by the Commission.

Traditionally, construction enforcement was the function of one foot patrolman in each precinct called the" conditions man" who concentrated on construction enforcement. At the time of the investigation, a growing number of precincts had abolished the post, leaving the responsibility for construction enforcement to other officers, such as "summons men" who had broader responsibilities for issuing summonses in other areas. Foot patrolmen and those in patrol cars were also empowered to go onto any site in their sectors to check for violations. In any case, the patrolman whose duty it was to enforce construction laws was, at the time of the investigation, required to make periodic checks of all construction sites in the precinct to make sure that they 1) had the proper permits, 2) conformed to the limitations of those permits, and 3) adhered to all City ordinances not covered by the permits. If he found any violations, he was supposed to issue a summons. Department regulations provided that he make a notation in his memo book whenever he visited a construction site and maintain a file at the precinct with a folder for each construction job in his jurisdiction, containing copies of all permit numbers for the site and a record of all civil summonses it had received.

In practice, the Commission found, officers responsible for enforcing ordinances relating to construction simply kept pro forma files and pretty much let the job go at that. Examination of conditions men's memo books in the Twentieth Precinct, where there were between twenty and fifty construction projects underway at one time, indicated that a grand total of thirty-nine visits were reported to have been made to construction sites over the two-year period from March, 1969, to March, 1971, with over half those visits recorded as having been for the purpose of copying down permit numbers. The patrolmen whose notebooks were examined admitted under oath that they did not follow Department regulations in getting permit numbers from new sites or in making entries in their memo books every time they entered a site. In short, the Commission found that these patrolmen had not been doing their jobs properly, were aware that they weren't, and knew that their work would not be reviewed by senior officers.

These rules were designed to facilitate control of corruption. Where the rules were ignored by supervisors, the spread of corruption was almost inevitable.

Patterns of Police Corruption in Construction

The most common pattern of police payoffs in the construction industry, as described to the Commission by police officers and by contractors and their employees, involved payment to the sector car of a fixed monthly or weekly fee, which varied according to the size of the construction job. Occasionally, the sergeants would also have a pad, and in larger jobs, the precinct captain sometimes had one of his own. In addition, all construction sites, no matter how small, were found to be vulnerable to overtures from local foot patrolmen. [i]

In a small job like the renovation of a brownstone, the general contractor was likely to pay the police between $50 and $150 a month, and the fee ascended sharply for larger jobs. An excavator on a small job paid $50 to $100 a week for the duration of excavation to avoid summonses for dirt spillage, flying dust, double-parked dump trucks, or for running vehicles over the sidewalk without a permit. A concrete company pouring a foundation paid another $50 to $100 a week to avoid summonses for double-parking its trucks or for running them across a sidewalk without a curb cut. (Concrete contractors are especially vulnerable, as it is essential that foundation-pouring be carried on continuously. This means that one or more trucks must be kept standing by while one is actually pouring.) Steel erectors paid a weekly fee to keep steel delivery trucks standing by; masons paid; the crane company paid. In addition, all construction sites were approached by police for contributions at Christmas, and a significant number paid extra for additional police patrols in the hope of obtaining protection from vandalism of building materials and equipment.

In small contracting companies, payments were generally negotiated and made by the owner; larger firms often had an employee whose sole job was to handle negotiations with agencies which regulate construction. This man, called an expeditor, negotiated and made all such payments, both to the police and to inspectors and permit-granting personnel from other agencies. In either case, when work was started on a new site, arrangements were made with the local police.

One contractor, whose experiences were fairly typical, spoke at length with Commission investigators and later -- with promise of anonymity -- testified before the Commission in executive session. He was a small general contractor who worked on jobs of less than one million dollars. He started his own company in the early sixties with a contract for a small job in Brooklyn. During the first week of construction, a sector car pulled up to the construction site and a patrolman came onto the site, asking to see the permits for demolition, sidewalk construction, etc. He looked over the various permits and left. The following day, another sector car came by, and one of the patrolmen issued a summons for obstruction of the sidewalk. The contractor protested that he had the necessary permit and was in no way violating the law. "If we don't work together;" the patrolman told him, "there will be a ticket every day." When the contractor asked how much "working together" would cost, he was told, "$50 a week." The contractor testified that he balked at this, claiming that his was a small operation and that he couldn't afford such payments. He said he would prefer to operate within the limitations of his permits and go to court to answer any summonses he might receive.

The following day, the contractor received another summons for $100. Two days later, he was approached again and told that it would be cheaper to payoff the police than to accumulate summonses. "We decided for our own good to make that $50 payment and not maintain our hero status," he said. He continued to make payments of $50 a week to a patrolman from the sector car for the duration of the construction work, which lasted about one year. His site was never again inspected by the police and he received no more summonses.

This contractor further testified that he was approached by the police, and paid them, on all the jobs he did in various City precincts. On none of these was he ever served with a summons. On his last job, in 1970, when he was in financial difficulties which eventually led to bankruptcy proceedings, he was, as usual, approached by the police for payoffs. Pleading insolvency, he refused to pay and used various ruses to avoid payment. He again began receiving summonses for violations -- the first that had been served on him since he started paying the police.

This contractor stated that in addition to paying the police he has also made payments to personnel from the Department of Buildings, other divisions of the Housing and Development Administration, the Department of Highways, and such federal agencies as the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs and the Federal Housing Administration.

Another builder, the owner of a medium-sized contracting company which does work for such clients as Consolidated Edison, the New York Telephone Company and the Catholic Dioceses of New York and Brooklyn, told Commission investigators that his company had paid off the police on every construction job it had done in the City, including the six or eight jobs in progress at the time of the interview. He told the Commission that he paid the police from $50 to $100 a week for each job he had in progress, and that payments were made by his expeditor, whose job it was to obtain permits and payoff police and others. He went on to say that his company frequently negotiated the amount of payment with the precinct commander either at the building site or at the local precinct.

A reliable informant who was intimately connected with this builder told the Commission that the builder's payoffs were in fact much larger than the $50 to $100 he claimed. The informant also reported that the expeditor handled all negotiations for payoffs, then reported to officers of the company, who gave him the appropriate amount out of petty cash. At a later date, the expeditor submitted covering expense vouchers indicating travel or entertainment expenses. During the time this informant was giving information to the Commission, he observed a sergeant approach a foreman at one of the company's construction sites in Queens and threaten to write out a summons for burning refuse. The foreman then told the sergeant that he couldn't see going to court over it and would give him $20 to forget about it. The sergeant said he would have to discuss it with his boss and left the site. That afternoon, the sergeant returned to the construction site with his precinct captain, who advised the foreman that there were" a lot of violations around." He said he wanted to speak to someone about "taking care of it" (a clear reference to the expeditor), and would return on the Tuesday afternoon following. At this point, the informant's role was discovered and the Commission was not able to find out how big a payoff the captain had in mind, although a three installment $2,500payoff which the informant said was arranged with a building inspector a few days earlier indicates that it would have been sizable.


The current system of laws and ordinances relevant to construction is badly in need of overhaul. Many ordinances now on the books make construction unduly difficult and create bountiful opportunities for graft. The needed review should preferably be undertaken by members both of the industry and of regulatory agencies.

A start has been made in this direction. In June, 1972, The New York Times ran a series of investigative articles which described in detail corrupt practices in the construction industry in the City. In response to the newspaper's allegations, a Slate Senate committee chaired by Senator Roy Goodman held six days of hearings, which resulted in a plan to have industry leaders, legislators, and the appropriate City commissioners review the tangle of City and state laws governing construction, with a view to eliminating those laws which are unrealistic or unnecessary and which lead to corruption. Industry groups have studied the laws and are expected soon to submit recommendations to the appropriate City commissioners.

One other important reform is needed. Builders in special situations may have a legitimate reason for violating ordinances. However, there is currently no procedure whereby such relief may be afforded. A publicly-recognized means for waiving regulations where necessary and appropriate should be established.

As outlined earlier, the Department has curtailed police enforcement of ordinances relating to construction. The Commission favors this step and feels that, insofar as possible, police officers should be relieved of responsibility for enforcing laws in any area under the jurisdiction of regulatory agencies -- in this case, the Department of Buildings, other divisions of the Housing and Development Administration, and the Department of Highways, among others.

We recognize that this approach will not in itself eliminate corruption but may simply transfer it from the police to other agencies. But we believe that corruption in other agencies -- undesirable as it is -- has far less impact upon the body politic than corruption among the police.

The progression found again and again in the course of our investigation, from the acceptance by a police officer of petty graft to more serious corruption, makes it desirable to remove as many sources of such petty graft as possible. By eliminating the opportunity for petty graft, the Department can perhaps change the current attitude that such graft is an accepted part of the police job -- an attitude which makes it easier for a police officer to accept or solicit graft of a more serious nature when the opportunity presents itself. Moreover, policemen are more likely to pursue vigorously a corrupt public official who IS not one of their own.

Moreover, as a simple matter of efficiency there is no justification for using the police, with all their powers and prerogatives, in the enforcement of many minor regulations.

A promising method of curtailing construction graft which the Department has yet to use on a broad scale, would be a campaign to arrest contractors who offer bribes to policemen. The recent use in the Bronx of police undercover agents posing as regular policemen has led to the arrests of such would-be bribers. Carrying this technique one step further, Department anti-corruption personnel could, without advance warning, require a police officer to don a concealed transmitter and, under surveillance, give a summons to a construction foreman in his area of patrol with whom he mayor may not have had corrupt dealings.



i. One small contractor told how it's done: "Put a five dollar bill in one pocket, a ten in the other. Fold it up real small. Size up the situation and pay accordingly. You can pass it in a handshake if necessary. It really isn't. You know the touch is on as soon as he ... walks on the job to see your permit and questions it."
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:53 am

Chapter Eight: BARS

In late 1970 and early 1971, the Commission conducted a concentrated investigation into police involvement with drinking establishments. It found that payoffs from bars licensed by the state to sell liquor, along with those from construction firms, were the most common source of illegal outside income to uniformed policemen, and that unlicensed premises, operating completely outside the law, were paying substantial amounts to plainclothesmen and detectives.

Like the construction industry, the business of selling liquor by the drink is governed by a complex system of state and local laws, infractions of which can lead to criminal penalties, as well as suspension or loss of license. Thus licensees are highly vulnerable to police shakedowns. The licensed premises most commonly solicited for payments were found to be lucrative bars, such as popular singles bars and dance halls, and establishments which played host to ancillary illegal operations, such as bars which catered heavily to prostitutes and their customers, to drug pushers and addicts, to gamblers, or to homosexuals soliciting partners. Payoffs were also made by establishments operating completely outside the law, such as bars which served liquor without a license, or after legal hours, and "juice joints" -- informal unlicensed spots which sell liquor by the bottle after midnight or on Sundays, when liquor stores are legally closed.

Although police officers receive free meals, drinks, and Christmas presents from legitimate restaurants, Commission investigators did not turn up evidence that such establishments were solicited by policemen for regular payments to avoid summonses.

At the time of the Commission's investigation, the responsibility for inspection and supervision of licensed premises was the duty of patrol sergeants in each sector. In October, 1971, the Department took these duties away from uniformed policemen and turned them over to plainclothesmen and detectives. However, there are some indications that the system of shakedowns and payoffs has continued, with plainclothesmen and detectives taking over where the uniformed force left off.

The Investigation

When the Commission began its investigation it was aware that one area in which it was likely to find patterns of systematic and widespread police corruption was the enforcement of laws relating to bars and restaurants licensed to sell liquor by the drink. Over the years, there had been periodic scandals involving bar payoffs to police officers. On at least two occasions, these had been triggered by the discovery of policemen's notebooks listing amounts due monthly or biweekly from licensed premises to various police officers. And the Commission itself had received complaints that such payments were in fact being made. Moreover, bars are especially vulnerable to pressure from corrupt police officers because of the wide range of regulatory statutes to which they are subject, some of which are anachronistic and others overly vague.

The Commission undertook to ascertain whether these allegations of corruption with respect to bars were true, and if so, to determine the extent and nature of that corruption. The Commission decided to focus its investigation on the Nineteenth Precinct on the East Side of Manhattan and the Sixth Precinct in the West Village. The Nineteenth Precinct was chosen because of its convenient location and high concentration of bars (it contains over 100 bars and restaurants), and its selection is not meant to imply that corruption there was any worse than in other precincts. In fact, as Patrolman Phillips testified, "The Nineteenth is not a big money precinct." The Sixth Precinct was chosen for its large number of completely unlicensed bars.

In conducting their investigations, Commission investigators sought information from a variety of sources. Thus, in the Nineteenth Precinct they followed officers to bars and noted the frequency of their visits, interviewed owners, managers, and bartenders, used confidential informants, and generally observed activities in and about the premises. Based upon these investigations, it became evident that the allegations of a systematic pattern of police corruption in connection with licensed bars and restaurants were substantially accurate. Furthermore, it is significant that these patterns changed abruptly, when, two months after the investigation in the Nineteenth had begun, the police became aware that Commission investigators were in the area. At that point, the officers who had previously been observed barhopping ceased such activities and warned bar owners and bartenders that, if they were questioned, they were to tell Commission investigators only that police sergeants came in occasionally to check licenses.

These police efforts to conceal the previously observed patterns had some measure of success. When the Commission held its executive hearings, it subpoenaed police officers responsible for bar inspections and directed them to bring with them their financial records and memo books covering the period of surveillance. Bar owners, managers, and bartenders were also subpoenaed along with their account books. Without exception, both police and bar personnel denied any knowledge of payoffs made to policemen by bars, and some even went so far as to deny having had various meetings and corruption-related conversations which had been observed, and in some cases overheard, by investigators.

In the Sixth Precinct in the West Village, the Commission used similar techniques of surveillance, undercover work, and interrogation of owners, employees, and informants to gather information about payoffs to police from both licensed bars and the large number of openly-operated unlicensed bars in that precinct. Here, too, the Commission's investigation confirmed the accuracy of allegations of systematic patterns of police corruption.

Patterns of Police Payoffs by Licensed Bars

As discussed in Chapter Fourteen, virtually all bars were found to provide free food and drinks to policemen and also made Christmas and vacation payments to police.

In addition, investigators found that many bars doing a substantial volume of business customarily made regular biweekly or monthly payments to the police. During the Commission's investigation such payments were usually initiated by the sector patrol sergeant who, bar owners said, would pay a visit to the premises and point out various violations or suggest that he could always flush the soap down the toilet and write out a summons for "no soap in the men's room." The next step would be negotiations as to how much the bar owner would pay-a sum to be split among the sergeants to insure protection from summonses. Finally, an agreement would be reached, a pad established, the down payment made, and from then on for as long as he stayed in business, the bar owner continued to pay. If the bagman was retired, promoted, or transferred, a new one soon took his place.

Although pad money was almost always paid to sergeants in the areas under investigation, other officers received payoffs from bars on a less regular basis. Radio car patrolmen picked up $5 to $10 apiece from certain bars on weekend nights when bar crowds were heaviest and trouble (and violations) most likely, and some captains were reported to have contracts with the busier bars.

In one bar, Commission investigators were mistaken for detectives, and the owner told them, in a tape-recorded conversation, that he had recently paid the precinct captain. As a result of that incident the precinct captain, now a deputy inspector, has been brought up on departmental charges of unlawfully accepting $300 and then attempting to persuade the bar owner not to testify against him.

According to information received by the Commission, pad payments made to sergeants began at $60 a month, and ascended to a high of $2,000 a month reportedly paid by one large establishment in the Village. In smaller bars, the pick-up was generally made once a month, usually on or near the first, and in larger ones biweekly on the first and fifteenth.

Behavior of supervising patrol sergeants in the Nineteenth, who were responsible for licensed premises inspections, was consistent with a pattern of biweekly and monthly payoffs to them by bar owners. Duty schedules in the precinct were arranged so that the three sergeants who were alleged to act as bagmen were always assigned to different shifts. They turned out to be a bar-hopping lot. The sheer volume of their visits to bars was out of all proportion to law-enforcement problems posed by licensed premises.

The most glaring example was one sergeant who invariably showed up in one bar or another ten minutes after going on duty and ordered a V.O. on the rocks, then proceeded to go from bar to bar for the rest of his tour. His pattern of visits, like that of the other two alleged sergeant-bagmen, changed sharply on the first and fifteenth of. the month, when payoffs were collected, in that he went to more bars than usual and spent less time in each. On the first of one month, Commission investigators observed the sergeant make the following ten visits to eight different bars, of which only two visits were recorded in his memo book:


In the four months from July 1, 1970, through November 2, 1970, this sergeant recorded a total of at least eighty-five official visits to bars. [i] In the same period he did not file a single licensed premises inspection form or issue a single summons. When questioned before the Commission and confronted with the disparity between his actual and recorded visits to bars, the sergeant attempted to explain his unreported bar visits by saying that he went into bars simply to use the toilet. He claimed he had to do this frequently because of a "urinary condition," which, however, he had never reported to the Department.

As in other precincts, honest enforcement of the law in relation to bars seemed to be the exclusive province of certain foot patrolmen. For example, one bar noted for permitting open gambling, drug-dealing and prostitution, and for staying open after legal closing hours, received ten summonses in one seven-month period, all issued by patrolmen.

In addition to ordinary pad payments, other opportunities for payoffs also arose. Fairly typical is the experience of one bar owner in the Twentieth Precinct on Manhattan's Upper West Side, who was approached by the police for payoffs in March of 1972. At this time, supervision of licensed premises had been taken away from uniformed sergeants and turned over to detectives and plainclothesmen, and the incident indicates that this organizational change may have had little impact on the basic operation of the system.

Four detectives entered this man's bar one night, announcing that they were there to inspect the premises, which they proceeded to do. After searching the men's room, one detective produced a small aluminum foil package which he said he had found in the men's room, and which he alleged contained cocaine. He told the bar owner that he was "in trouble," and that this incident would have to be written up and reported to the State Liquor Authority (SLA). The detectives then left, but a half-hour later, a patrolman known to the bar owner appeared and said he had seen the detectives writing up papers in the station house. He said that he would talk to the detectives and "see if anything could be done." It was clear that he was talking about a payoff. Later in the week, the patrolman telephoned the owner and told him he had arranged a meeting between the two of them and one of the detectives, to take place three days later in a neighborhood bar.

At this point, the incident became highly atypical because the owner got in touch with the Commission, which, no longer having an investigative staff, contacted the Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, which arranged to supply the bar owner with $100 in marked money and to cover the meeting.

At the meeting, the detective asked for $500 for changing his report on the bar so that the licensee wouldn't get in trouble with the SLA. The owner said he had only $100 with him, which the policemen took as partial payment, after which they left the bar and walked straight into the hands of IAD. Both the detective and the patrolman have been indicted for receiving a bribe.

Another kind of score situation develops whenever there is a fight in a licensed premises, or any other disturbance which leads to arrest. All arrests made in bars must be reported to the SLA, which takes a dim view of the kind of activity which leads to arrest (fighting, for example), and which may revoke a bar owner's license on the grounds that he is running a "disorderly house." At the very least, if the SLA receives a report of an arrest in a bar, it will hold a hearing to determine the licensee's culpability.

So, while bar owners frequently need police help to break up fights or get rid of obstreperous drunks, they have a strong interest in making sure that these things are not reported to the SLA. And the police are only too happy to oblige. For a fee which commonly ranges from $200 to $400, police officers will either not report a fight at all or will report that it took place on the street in front of the bar instead of inside. They will also make the arrest outside. Such a procedure insures that no records are sent to the SLA, and the licensee is off the hook.

Patterns of Police Payoffs by Unlicensed Bars

The Commission's investigation of unlicensed bars centered ill the Sixth Precinct in the West Village, primarily one seventeen-square block area which is dominated during the day by the Gansevoort Meat Market. At night it becomes a haven for homosexuals who are drawn by the large number of completely illegal, unlicensed bars which cater to them. These establishments have been identified by local and federal law enforcement agencies as being owned or controlled by members of organized crime, and they are the scene of substantial illegal activity.

The unlicensed bars in the Village (usually euphemistically called "after-hours clubs" because they stay open long after the 4:00 a.m. legal closing time for licensed premises) are located in sizable lofts which accommodate as many as 700men at a time. These bars generally consist of a large open space containing a bar and dance floor, and a connected "sex room" or "orgy room" where men practice homosexual acts on each other.

The Commission found that many of these unlicensed bars made payoffs to division plainclothesmen and detectives who were charged with enforcing laws against them, to insure that the bars would be allowed to operate virtually unhindered by police action. The payments were substantial, ranging up to $2,000 a month for the largest and most lucrative club. The understanding between bar owners and police was that occasional token arrests would be made to keep up a facade of police alertness, but that the arrests would be handled in such a manner that they did not seriously disrupt business. Arrests were generally limited to a handful of minor employees, and were made quietly, so that customers were not harassed or intimidated. Seizure of liquor generally consisted of police taking two or three half-empty bottles for evidence and leaving the main supply intact.

Despite their completely illegal status, the Sixth Precinct's afterhours clubs operated so openly -- even blatantly -- that their existence was obvious even to the most casual passerby. On weekend nights, Commission investigators saw long, often noisy, queues of patrons lined up outside the clubs, waiting to get in. Numerous citizen complaints were received by the First Division, uniformed officers filed endless suspected premises reports, and on occasion complaints were forwarded from the SLA. Yet division personnel took little action. When plainclothesmen and detectives were sent to check on after-hours clubs, they usually filed reports indicating that they had observed no illegal activity.

At the time of the Commission's investigation, the largest afterhours club in the Sixth Precinct occupied the entire third floor of a block-long building on West 13th Street. The street floor of the same building housed a licensed bar, also catering to homosexuals, which was under the same management as the after-hours club. This club, like most others in the neighborhood, was operated openly. On weekend nights, large numbers of patrons lined up in the street outside the club to wait for the elevator to the third floor.

According to an informant, the owner of this bar paid plainclothesmen from the First Division $2,000a month for being allowed to operate, with the understanding that no substantial action would be taken against the club, but that it would have to be "raided" occasionally. The club was indeed "raided" seven times in twelve months, with the raids consisting of plainclothesmen entering the premises and quietly arresting a handful of minor employees (porters, doormen, and the like) and seizing a few half-empty liquor bottles for evidence, all without disturbing the regular operations of the club or embarrassing its patrons. According to a witness at one of the raids, even this was too much for the manager, who yelled at one of the plainclothesmen during a raid, "You dirty -----, after I just gave you $2,000 and you go pull this ---! I have shoved so much money down your throat and you raid me the next day!" The witness added that the plainclothesman looked embarrassed and said nothing.

During this club's existence, the First Division received many citizen complaints about it, and additional complaints were forwarded from the SLA. Also, numerous uniformed sergeants from the Sixth Precinct filed suspected premises reports. Yet plainclothesmen from the division sent down to look into the complaints generally reported that the club was closed or that they were refused admittance.

A review of Police Department records reveals that, several days after the club was opened in mid-April of 1970, a uniformed sergeant filed a suspected premises report. Over the next six weeks, plainclothesmen sent to investigate either reported the club closed or said they had been refused admittance. On June 6, 1970, plainclothesmen finally entered the club and made several token arrests. From June 6 to June 17, they made five visits, reporting each time that the club was closed. Another raid was made on June 18. However, the police handled the raids with enough discretion to avoid interfering with the club's operations, as was evidenced by the fact that the club leased additional space, doubling its size, eleven days after the June 18 raid. Over the next two months, despite the filing of suspected premises reports by uniformed sergeants, plainclothesmen from division claimed they could find no violations. Over the following five months, they made four raids, claiming in between raids either that the club was closed or that they were refused admittance. (Despite the numerous reports of being refused entrance to the club, the division at no time attempted to get a search warrant.) During the periods when division plainclothesmen claimed that the place was closed, uniformed police and Commission investigators observed it open. And during periods when plainclothesmen claimed they were refused admittance, Commission investigators had no trouble getting in.

Eventually, the Investigation Unit of Patrol Borough Manhattan South was called to investigate. Among other things, their report on the matter cast considerable doubt on plainclothesmen's claims that they were refused admittance. The investigating officers' report stated, "The officers while entering and leaving the premises were not asked for membership cards; nor was there any evidence of security either at the door nor inside the premises proper."

After the presence of Commission investigators in the area was publicized, a reliable informant told the Commission that supervisory police officers advised the owner of the club to close down "until the heat is off," which he did. At the time of the investigation, the owner of the club had reportedly already signed the lease on new space around the corner and refurbished it as an after-hours club at a cost of $40,000.

Another unlicensed club notable for the number of policemen who frequented it, both in and out of uniform, operated equally openly and with little police interference. Arrests at this club were exceedingly amicable. On one occasion, a Commission informant was on the premises when a raid took place. Plainclothesmen mentioned to the doorman on their way in that there would be a raid that evening, and that they needed two people. They then went on upstairs to the club and ordered drinks. When they had finished drinking, they said, "Okay, let's go," and walked out with the doorman, one of the bartenders, and two half-empty bottles of liquor. A former employee who had been arrested several times said that all the raids followed the same pattern, with arrested employees being taken to court the following morning, where they pleaded guilty to "disorderly conduct."

As with most of the after-hours clubs, suspected premises reports filed on this one by uniformed men were largely ignored at division level. During one month, five reports were filed. Plainclothesmen took no action on the first four, then, after the fifth, paid a visit one night at 1:00 a.m., when they reported the bar closed. However, a uniformed sergeant who passed by two and a half hours later reported it open and operating.

Not all uniformed officers were so diligent about filing suspected premises reports, though. For example, Commission investigators observed six different patrol cars cruise past the club one night between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. During this period, large numbers of patrons were entering and leaving, yet not one suspected premises report was filed -- perhaps because uniformed men saw little point in filing reports which they knew would be ignored.

In some cases, uniformed police officers shook down afterhours clubs. One owner of such an establishment told the Commission the following story, which was later corroborated by another source. Shortly after his bar opened, the local precinct captain paid a visit and asked the owner if he was running an after-hours bar. The owner admitted he was, whereupon the captain produced a neatly typed list of payments the owner was to make to the police for the privilege of operating. Listed were captains, lieutenants, sergeants, and sector car patrolmen, with the amount to be paid to each.

Afterhours bars were not the only unlicensed premises found to make systematic payoffs to the police. Officers Phillips and Droge both testified that they, their fellow patrolmen, and in some cases, their supervisors, had accepted regular payments from bottle clubs and "juice joints."

Bottle clubs are drinking places, supposedly open only to members who bring their own liquor. In fact, most bottle clubs are open to anyone, and they sell liquor by the drink. Because they posed as private clubs, these establishments were exempt from regulation by the State Liquor Authority until 1969, when a law was passed requiring bottle clubs to register with the SLA and to obey the laws applicable to public taverns, including the curfew rules. As of late 1972, not one of the City's hundreds of bottle clubs had applied for a license from the SLA, each apparently preferring its informal "licensing" arrangements with the local police. An informant who had operated a bottle club in Brooklyn in the late sixties told the Commission that he had made biweekly payments of $30 to two sergeants, and had also made regular payments to two detectives assigned to the Youth Squad. After he stopped making payments, his club was raided and cash and liquor confiscated.

Juice joints, which are essentially unlicensed and untaxed package stores operating out of hallways or private apartments, sell liquor and wine by the bottle when licensed liquor stores are closed. Patrolman Droge testified that the daily payoffs from juice joints in one precinct where he had been assigned amounted to $10 per sector car from each establishment. The sergeants in that precinct, Droge testified, usually made their own contracts with the proprietors of juice joints.

If a juice joint is very conspicuous, an accommodation arrest may occasionally be necessary, as Patrolman Phillips explained in his testimony before the Commission. Phillips described an incident involving a very active and conspicuous juice joint in Harlem, where Phillips and his partner made an arrest one Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. The hallway where the liquor was being sold was full of cases of whiskey, rye, gin, and wine. Phillips testified:

"So we told him [the proprietor], 'We're going to arrest you for selling liquor in violation of the ABC laws.' So he says, 'Well, I can't go, you have to take my wife. I'm too busy.' So he says to his wife, 'Sweetie, get dressed, you're taking a pinch.'

"So his wife got dressed and packed a little lunch and we took his wife. We also took a few hundred dollars and took liquor for evidence. So his wife went to court and pleaded guilty and [paid] a small fine and she walked out."


The most visible evidence of police toleration of illegal conditions in and around bars at the time of the investigation were the long lines of double- and triple-parked cars outside bars along the East Side avenues. Patrons of the bars were instructed to put matchbooks or menus from the bars on their dashboards. These acted, in effect, as parking permits. Patrolmen would walk along the lines of illegally-parked cars, looking at the dashboards and issuing summonses only to cars without matchbooks or menus. The bars themselves were of course immune from summonses for violations of the various laws, and those bars which permitted open prostitution, drug-pushing, gambling, and soliciting by homosexuals were left alone to pursue their lucrative operations. Unlicensed premises were permitted to operate openly, subject only to occasional token arrests.

More serious was the effect of police corruption with respect to licensed and unlicensed bars on overall law enforcement efforts. In the Nineteenth Precinct, Commission investigators were struck by the visible lack of police patrols. During the six-week period of intense surveillance, investigators rarely saw a police car on patrol west of Lexington Avenue (almost all of the bars in the precinct are east of Lexington). According to the FBI index of serious crimes for the period covering the investigation, the Nineteenth Precinct ranked fourth highest of the seventy-eight precincts then in the City in the number of crimes reported, and the third lowest in the number of arrests per 100 reported felonies. Furthermore, a high percentage of the crimes committed in this precinct, like robbery, larceny of $50 and over, and auto theft, take place outdoors, where a strong police presence would act as a powerful deterrent.

The Department has taken steps to restore uniformed men to more productive tasks by ordering that no uniformed men are to enter bars except in emergencies or for meals. This step was apparently directed not merely at corruption but also at reducing public perception of it by shifting responsibility to non-uniformed men. Plainclothesmen may enter bars only in answer to specific complaints, or to take their meals. The change in policy has apparently had limited effectiveness in curtailing bar-related corruption, as illustrated by the incident related above, in which four detectives shook down a West Side bar shortly after the change went into effect.

The laws regulating drinking establishments are so numerous and so all-encompassing that virtually every licensed premise is guilty, at least sporadically, of technical violations. Drinking places are licensed by the State Liquor Authority, which is also empowered to revoke or refuse to renew licenses, and they are subject to regulation under numerous laws including the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Law, the Administrative Code, the Building Code, and the Health Code.

The New York City Administrative Code prohibits dancing in any bar that doesn't have a cabaret license, a regulation that has led to the issuance of at least one summons to a bar in which a patron was stepping in time to the music as he put coins in a juke box. Under §106 of the ABC Law, no licensed premises may have a "screen, blind, [or] curtain" covering any part of any window on the premises; under the same section, booths, partitions, and swinging doors are also prohibited. Other commonly violated provisions of the ABC Law are those 1) prohibiting lighting too dim to permit the reading of a newspaper; 2) requiring separate sanitary facilities for men and women (violated by very small bars and by those patronized solely by men); 3) stipulating that for every three feet of bar there must be at least one seat at a table.

A licensee may be issued a summons if he "suffers or permits" certain activities among his patrons over which he may, in fact, have limited control: A bar is violating the law if its patrons use" indecent, vile or vulgar" language or if they are "disorderly." Some of the laws police officers are called on to enforce in relation to licensed premises are sound in principle but are so vague and ill-defined that they lend themselves to abuses in practice. Bars are prohibited from serving persons "under the influence of liquor," but the law in no way defines "influence." Does one drink create influence? Three? Five? In enforcing this provision of the law, the police have established no objective standard and use no objective tests, such as those given to motorists suspected of drunken driving. To confuse the issue even more, the law states that a bar is in violation if a drink is served to someone who is "apparently" under the influence. Of the nuisance laws, those most commonly mentioned by bar owners are Health Department ordinances requiring that kitchen garbage cans be covered at all times and that there be soap in the men's room.

The Commission concluded during its investigation that the interests of both the police and the public would best be served by divesting the Police Department of responsibility for enforcing these laws except in response to specific complaints. The Department has effected this change in policy, which has diminished the number of bar visits and thus cut down the opportunities for police shakedowns. The police should be removed still further from enforcing minor ordinances affecting bars by shifting such responsibility to other agencies like the SLA or the Health Department. Any corruption which may exist in such agencies is a lesser evil than corruption among policemen for the same reasons set forth above with respect to the construction industry.



i. As might be expected of someone who spent so much time in bars, the sergeant's memo book entries became increasingly illegible as the night wore on, deteriorating to an undecipherable scrawl toward the end of a tour. Eighty-five represents the number of entries relating to bars that Commission investigators were able to read.
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:13 pm

Chapter Nine: SABBATH LAW

The Commission found that the New York State Sabbath Law provided the basis for one minor but widespread form of police graft. The Sabbath Law, which regulates the sale of food and other necessities on Sunday, is a complicated statute with many provisions which are routinely violated by food stores open on Sunday. The Commission found that some police officers took money from proprietors of such businesses in return for not issuing summonses for violations.

The Sabbath Law contains many provisions which, while they may have been logical at one time, seem now to have little rhyme or reason. In theory, the law provides that only necessities may be sold on Sunday; however, the law defines as "necessities" such items as beer, drugs, newspapers, flowers, gasoline, souvenirs, and cemetery monuments. Certain foodstuffs may be sold on Sundays, others may not, and still others may be sold only at certain hours. For example, the proprietor of a delicatessen may sell bread, milk, and eggs at any hour on Sunday, but he is restricted to selling prepared or cooked foods before 10:00 a.m. or between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. Thus, he can legally sell an egg at 12:00 noon, but not egg salad. Police officers are empowered to issue summonses for violations of such provisions of the Sabbath Law, but in practice, many officers were more likely to demand $2 or $5 for not issuing a summons.

Patterns of Payoffs by Food Store Owners

One group of stores most vulnerable to police who threaten to issue summonses for violations of the Sabbath Law were delicatessens and bodegas, which are seven-day-a-week Spanish grocery stores. Bodegas were doubly vulnerable, since their proprietors frequently do not speak English fluently, were unfamiliar with the maze of provisions in the Sabbath Law, and were unlikely to know where to go to complain about shakedowns.

Every Sunday, the Commission found that many delicatessen and bodega owners paid police from $2 to $10, or the equivalent in merchandise -- usually cigarettes, cold cuts, canned goods, or six-packs of beer. In effect, these payoffs amounted to a license to stay open on Sunday. Proprietors who were unwilling to pay were plagued with numerous summonses for violations of the Sabbath Law and sometimes even for unrelated violations.

On Manhattan's Upper West Side, many large supermarket chain stores stay open on Sundays, apparently unhampered by police action, although the Commission has no knowledge of any payoffs made by them except in return for daily escort service to the bank.

Payoffs to avoid summonses for violations of the Sabbath Law were collected by either the foot patrolman or the patrolmen assigned to the sector car. Thus, the total amount a police officer could make on a given Sunday depended upon the sector to which he was assigned, since one sector might have had a great many delicatessens or bodegas and another very few.

Department Response

In December, 1970, following an experiment begun in the Bronx, the Police Department issued an order to all police officers not to enforce the Sabbath Law unless a specific complaint was received or a flagrant violation was observed. In such instances, the sergeant on duty in the sector was to be responsible for correction of the violation. Two associations of bodega-owners, who had cooperated with the Commission in this investigation, said that incidents of shakedowns by police officers dropped dramatically after the new order went into effect. However, this policy has not been so successful in other areas. Shortly after the announcement of the policy change, The New York Times made a survey of stores in the Times Square area which were technically in violation of the law for selling nonessential items on Sunday. Proprietors reported that the new directive had changed nothing: Although none admitted ever having been asked for a bribe, many proprietors were reported as saying that they were being served with two to four summonses each Sunday -- just as they had before the Department's directive.


The effects of payments made by store owners to police for non-enforcement of the Sabbath Law are the same familiar effects of most police graft: increased public cynicism about the police and lowered police efficiency. The present Sabbath laws should be repealed as they have been in a number of states. To the extent they are retained, enforcement should not be a police function.
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:21 pm


One of the pettiest but sometimes most annoying forms of police corruption involves policemen taking money in return for not issuing summonses for illegal parking or for moving violations. Generally, payoffs to permit illegal parking were made to police officers on a regular weekly or monthly pad basis, most often by businessmen wishing to park their trucks, delivery vehicles, or private automobiles illegally, or to protect their customers' illegally-parked cars. Payments to the police by motorists seeking to avoid summonses for moving violations, on the other hand, were scores, which are necessarily of a catch-as-catch-can nature.

Although the Commission felt traffic payments were but a minor part of police corruption and chose not to devote any sizable investigative effort to the matter, it received a flood of complaints from citizens indicating that traffic payoffs are a subject of wide interest. And the staggering number of illegally-parked cars passed over by policemen issuing summonses bears silent witness to the prevalence of selective enforcement.

Patterns of Payoffs by Motorists

New York City has a system of stringent parking regulations, combined with extremely high parking fines, and the two taken together offer strong temptations to corruption. In most of midtown Manhattan, there is no parking or standing permitted between 8:00 a.m. and 6 :00 p.m., and violators' cars may be towed away. Once a car has been towed off by the police, getting it back involves paying a $50 towing charge in addition to the amount on the summons, which is usually $25.

Enforcement of the parking laws is primarily the responsibility of officers assigned to sector cars in each precinct and of the citywide Parking Enforcement Squad. These officers sometimes collected regular pad payments from people whose businesses would be hurt if they or their customers received parking tickets. One example was the payoffs made by bar owners to police to insure that patrons' cars could double- and triple-park with impunity. Other payors included construction companies and businesses which must make pick-ups and deliveries in congested areas like midtown Manhattan, which includes the garment district where streets are customarily choked with delivery trucks. In addition, some smaller companies used unlicensed or otherwise unqualified drivers during rush seasons and were therefore doubly susceptible to police demands for money.

Many companies carried on their books accounts entitled" Traffic Expense" or "Delivery Expense," which covered illicit payments to the police. In the case of one company whose books were inspected by the Commission this amounted to regular entries of several hundred dollars a month.

An employee of one major trucking firm, which did not payoff the police, told the Commission that his company paid between $48,000and $60,000 a year in parking fines. By way of contrast, a Commission informant reported that another company, a large air freight concern, paid the police $15,000 a year-a staggering amount, but a substantial saving over the amount paid in fines by the other trucking company.

The Commission was inundated by allegations of parking pads at a less exalted level, of which the following are examples:

• The owner of a vending machine company in Queens told the Commission he paid the local sector car $5 a week so that he could park his truck in front of the shop.
• An ambulance service paid $10 a week to four patrolmen so that it could double-park ambulances in front of its office, according to a complainant who had audited the company's books.
• A university official received bills from a limousine company, which included a surcharge of $2 per car. When he called the company to question the bill, he was told that the police in Manhattan regularly demand money from limousine drivers waiting to pick up clients, and that the company added a $2 charge on all calls to Manhattan to cover this expense.
• A Greenwich Village storekeeper, who refused to make weekly payments to a local sergeant who approached him, complained to the Commission that he received summonses regularly for parking his truck on a sidewalk where other businessmen's trucks were parked with impunity.
• The owner of a chain of SIX parking garages near Madison Square Garden told a Commission consultant that he had been paying the police $100 per garage per week-a total of $600 a week-until the Commission's public hearings began. At that point, he said the police raised the price to $800 a week on the grounds that it had become more dangerous for them to overlook violations.
• Numerous informants, including at least two cab drivers, reported that yellow cab fleets paid in return for being permitted to park their cabs on " no parking" streets and sidewalks.

The public's resentment of the parking problem is aggravated by the fact that the police are among the City's worst offenders, routinely parking their personal cars in "no parking" zones, including tow-away areas, under circumstances indicating that no job-related reason exists. Policemen's justification for ignoring parking ordinances is that the City has agreed to "make every effort to provide parking spaces" for policemen, but that there are not an adequate number near the station houses.

In the case of moving violations, as opposed to illegal parking, police corruption takes the form of scores. In New York State, repeated moving violations can result in loss of license. Because of this, motorists, particularly those whose livelihood depends on having a driver's license -- like taxi drivers, truck drivers or salesmen -- are often eager to pay officers to overlook violations, real or imagined. The ten dollar bill folded in a license is a common but impossible-to-prove fact of life, the extent of which can only be speculated upon.

If the motorist made no overture, the policeman sometimes would. One example of this occurred in the Bronx in August of 1970. Two policemen in a radio car stopped a motorist who had just made a U-turn and told him that they would overlook the violation if he "showed his appreciation." At this point, the incident became highly atypical when the motorist, claiming that he had no money with him, made a date for a subsequent meeting with the officers and reported the incident to the borough commander. The meeting was held and $15 was exchanged. As a result, both officers were convicted of official misconduct, and one of them was also convicted of receiving a bribe.

An even more picayune attempt at soliciting money from a motorist was made on a member of the Commission staff one afternoon in Queens, when her car's motor died in heavy traffic. A passing radio car stopped and the policemen in it offered to push her car to the nearest gas station for $5. She politely declined and the officers just as politely wished her luck and drove off.

Another kind of traffic-related corruption involves straightforward payment for services rendered. An investigation conducted by the Department of Investigation into several rental car companies revealed that they made regular payments to Police Department personnel who provided them with daily copies of the Department's stolen-car lists including the names and addresses of the cars' owners. The companies would then solicit the owners' business, offering them special rates. Records reflecting this practice were received from the Department of Investigation which, faced with Fifth Amendment claims by car rental officials, was unable to make any criminal cases.

The Commission also received several complaints, which tended to corroborate each other, that members of the Hack Bureau of the Police Department, which regulates taxis and taxi drivers, charged drivers and owners under-the-table fees. The schedule of payments was reported to be $20 for seeing that violations were overlooked, $2 for insuring that taxis passed inspections, and $15 to expedite the transfer of medallions. Reportedly, employees of one insurance company which specializes in insuring taxis instructed owners to put $15 in a sealed envelope and hand it to the lieutenant in charge when they went to the bureau to transfer a medallion.


Under current laws, in order to facilitate the movement of traffic, no parking whatsoever is permitted at certain hours in areas like midtown Manhattan, which includes some streets which have extremely light traffic. This is clearly unrealistic, and gives the police something of an excuse for enforcing the laws only sporadically and ineffectively.

Parking laws are generally designed to serve valid public purposes, such as facilitating traffic flow and insuring access to hydrants, and should be enforced for the public good, regardless of their unpopularity. Where the laws are unreasonable -- for example, the prohibition against all parking and standing in certain areas -- they simply invite violations and give the police an excuse for enforcing them only selectively and ineffectively.

The Police Department has claimed that parking enforcement must be selective, because they simply don't have the manpower to ticket all the illegally-parked cars in the City. That mayor may not be true, but in any case it is clear that police performance in this area could be dramatically improved.

If the laws were changed to make them more realistic than current ones, part of the parking problem and its attendant corruption would be solved. Another part could be solved by announcing a crackdown on illegally-parked cars and really holding sergeants accountable for the performance of their men, as the Department has announced it is trying to do in the Neighborhood Police Teams. If the Department really means business, a sergeant will be held responsible for controlling illegal parking in his sector and subject to discipline if he allows it to get out of hand. He, in turn, can be expected to prevent the men under him from taking payments for not enforcing parking ordinances.

As for payments to police officers for overlooking moving violations, the Commission feels that motorists are often the instigators of such bribes and should be arrested. If the Department vigorously pursues its policy of arresting those who offer money to police officers, the practice will be much diminished. If such a policy is pursued, the Department should make every effort to obtain corroborative evidence -- such as tape-recordings -- that a bribery attempt was indeed made.

A more subtle effect of police corruption and consequent inefficiency in enforcing parking regulations is the cynicism engendered in the citizenry when they see police automobiles parked next to signs reading "No PARKING ANY TIME -- TOWAWAY ZONE" in one block, and then encounter policemen towing away civilian cars a block away. This situation could be somewhat alleviated simply by adding the legend "POLICE VEHICLES ONLY" to signs in front of precinct houses.
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:30 pm

Chapter Eleven: TOW TRUCKS

When an automobile accident occurs and a car sustains enough damage to require the services of a tow truck, patrolmen at the scene may receive payments from the tow-truck driver. This practice, as uncovered by the Commission's investigation, has remained virtually unchanged since 1960, when a series of articles in the now defunct New York Journal-American exposed the same pattern. As a result of that scandal, several dozen police officers were transferred and reprimanded and a deputy inspector was suspended from the force, but the practice of tow-truck drivers making payoffs to police officers was found to have continued.

Reasons for Payoffs by Tow-Truck Companies

Towing wrecks is not in itself lucrative enough to warrant payoffs to the police. In fact, the charge for towing cars is regulated by law and generally would not even cover the cost of the customary payment to police. [i]

However, repairing wrecks, especially badly damaged recent-model wrecks, is an extremely profitable business, and since the garage to which such wrecks are first towed generally gets the repair business, the competition for towing damaged cars is fierce among the 650 licensed towing companies in the City.

This competition takes the form of a great race among tow-truck drivers to be the first to arrive at the scene of an accident and sign up the customer. To get there first, some tow trucks careen through City streets, often disregarding stop signs, one-way signs, and red lights. Some companies also seek to gain an edge over their competitors by installing illegal police-band radios in their trucks so that they can be first on the scene, sometimes reaching accident sites even before the police.

The Commission found that, for wreckers who paid off, the police usually overlooked such violations of the law. They also overlooked the operator's using high-pressure sales tactics on owners who were sometimes injured, dazed or drunk, in spite of the fact that towing companies are prohibited by law from soliciting business at the scene of an accident. On occasion, policemen even interceded when a tow-truck driver was having difficulty signing up a recalcitrant driver. They would then warn the driver that he was liable to a summons for obstructing traffic or that if the vehicle was not towed away, it might be vandalized during the night by spare-parts scavengers. Many companies insist on getting the owner to sign an authorization for the repair work while at the scene. In this case also, a policeman might be instrumental in touting the attributes of the particular tow-truck company involved. One such instance reported to the Commission was the case of a driver who refused to let the towing company sign him up on the spot. His position changed quickly when the policeman reminded him that he could be issued summonses for drunken driving and for driving without a license.

For these services, the Commission found that the two radio car patrolmen whose car was directed to the scene by the police dispatcher commonly received $20, although they sometimes picked up more later if they went to the garage and found that the towing company did indeed get authorization for an expensive repair job. On occasion, when a police officer saw an accident before it had been broadcast over the police radio, he would go to a pay phone and call a tow-truck company himself, in which case he received $20, $30 or more from the company.

The Investigation

In December, 1970, the Commission received a complaint from a tow-truck operator named George Burkert that he and others were being shaken down by the police. He agreed to help the Commission gather evidence to confirm his allegations under an arrangement whereby he would never offer money to policemen and would stall those who asked him for money, telling them that he needed to get it from his boss, and then he would set up a subsequent meeting. Afterwards, he would notify Commission investigators, who would equip him with a transmitter, observe the rendezvous and monitor and record all conversations. Under this arrangement, clear evidence was gathered of a number of payoffs to police officers.

At the first of these incidents another driver, who worked the day shift for the same garage as Burkert, was stopped by police officers while he was towing a wrecked new car in the Fifth Precinct in lower Manhattan. The officers apparently asked the driver for $30. The tow-truck operator, who knew that Burkert was working with the Commission, told the officers that he had no money with him and made arrangements for them to meet with Burkert the following night.

Burkert, wearing a transmitter and observed by Commission agents, drove in his tow-truck to the rendezvous point, where he found a police car waiting for him. After he stopped his truck, an officer from the car came over to him and, after some desultory conversation, Burkert handed him $30, which he accepted.

A month later, when Burkert responded to an accident in Long Island City and received permission from the owner of the car for the tow job, he was approached by an officer who wanted to be "taken care of" on the spot. Burkert explained that he would have to speak to his boss and the police officer arranged to telephone him later. The officer did call and set up a meeting, at which time Burkert, again wired and observed, gave him $10, an unusually low sum, in an attempt to elicit some conversation about amounts. The only such conversation that followed consisted of the officer referring to Burkert's boss as "a stiff."

On a third occasion, when Burkert was approached by police as he was preparing to tow a car, he again set up a subsequent meeting and kept the date, accompanied as usual by a microphone and two Commission agents. At the meeting he told the police that he didn't know if his shop was going to be given authorization to make repairs on the automobile, and no money changed hands. The officer apparently resented not being paid off and issued a summons to Burkert the following day. Through another policeman, word was passed to Burkert that the resentful officer wanted $100 from the driver "to be friends." Burkert met with the officer and, in a conversation which was, as usual, recorded by Commission agents, negotiated the $100friendship payment down to $25, which he paid to the officer.

On still another occasion, Burkert was approached at the site of a tow job by a police officer asking for money. The customary arrangements were made for a meeting the following night at a location suggested by the officers: the corner of 67th Street and Lexington Avenue, next to the Nineteenth Precinct station house. Shortly after the tow truck arrived on the corner a police car pulled up and a sergeant asked Burkert, "You got it?", whereupon the driver handed him $30.

This meeting took place during a shift change at the precinct, at which time there were a large number of policemen milling around on the sidewalk. The meeting was filmed in its entirety by a hidden camera, as well as being observed and recorded by Commission agents.

The patrolmen who took the payoff saw the film truck and later telephoned Burkert to give him a cover story to use in the event of an investigation. (The patrolman said the story had been concocted with the aid of the precinct's PBA delegate.) This and subsequent telephone calls made to discuss the matter were recorded by Commission agents who arranged to be with Burkert when the calls were made. During the conversation Burkert pointed out that the corner where they exchanged the money may not have been the best place for the meeting:

Burkert: "... That was kind of a bad spot for you to tell me to meet you in the first place."

Officer: "What, over there?"

Burkert: "By the precinct, where there's cops all over the place?"

Officer: "The cops are nothing. You know what we should have done? We should have taken you right into the station house."

Burkert: "The cops are nothing?"

Officer: "Well, that's the easiest. Cops you never worry about."

These instances and other similar ones monitored by Commission investigators certainly indicate that shaking down tow-truck drivers was a prevalent practice in New York, and one that was tolerated even by officers not themselves involved. [ii] Both Patrolman Phillips and Patrolman Droge testified that they had received payments from towing companies in circumstances similar to those outlined above. Their testimony also corroborated the amounts and methods of meeting to receive payments that the Commission found in its surveillances. In addition, Patrolman Droge testified that the police harass trucks belonging to companies which don't pay by strict enforcement of the laws regulating tow trucks. Patrolman Logan testified that, although he had never received payments from tow-truck operators, he knew of the practice.


When police payoffs are made by towing companies, those companies are left free to harass and browbeat motorists who have been involved in accidents, often signing them up at the scene for repair work which will be billed at rates inflated at least enough to cover the payoffs.

A second result of such payments is that the immunity from traffic summonses conferred on certain tow-truck drivers allows them to drive around the City in a manner dangerous to other motorists and pedestrians.

The business of towing automobiles is one where adequate and reasonable laws and regulations are already in effect. Curtailing the practices outlined above is simply a matter of police will and diligence.



i. The rate for towing cars is $5 for preparing the car for towing and $4 for the first mile plus $1 a mile thereafter.

ii. Burkert was indicted, following the hearings, by a federal grand jury to which he had repeated testimony about an experience occurring before his involvement with the Commission relating to an incident involving alleged harassment by police officers in connection with some traffic tickets. In July, 1972, his trial ended in a hung jury. The retrial is pending.
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Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:34 pm


The Commission found that payoffs were being made to policemen assigned to the Property Clerk's office and to the Police Department'8 automobile storage yards by field representatives of one of the nation'8 largest automobile finance companies. The payments were made for "information and assistance" in gaining release of automobiles which had been seized during the commission of crimes and held as evidence. The automobiles involved were ones on which the buyers had stopped making payments, and which the finance company was seeking to repossess.

The company also made $5 and $10 payments to policemen on patrol for assistance in recovering automobiles from the streets, mainly in ghetto neighborhoods.

Payments to Policemen at City Auto Storage Yards

The legal methods available to a finance company seeking to gain custody of cars in City pounds are elaborate and can be extremely time-consuming if followed to the letter of the law. And, since most cars finance companies seek to repossess are expensive late models which depreciate rapidly, there is a substantial dollar saving in repossessing them as quickly as possible. This saving more than covers the cost of bribing personnel at the storage lots for expediting matters.

Roughly a third of the sixty or so employees in one finance company's repossession unit were former New York City policemen. The company's files, which were subpoenaed by the Commission, indicated that money had been paid to policemen for aiding in the recovery of twenty-one out of thirty-nine cars retrieved from City pounds in an eleven-month period. The amounts paid ranged from $25 to $100,with most payments in the neighborhood of $45 to $55, for a total of $1,267.50. In nineteen of the twenty-one cases, the payments were made by one ex-police officer, who was described by his boss as a specialist in getting cars out of the pounds. The most common reasons given for the payments in company records were "Assistance" or "Information and Assistance," although one came right out and said "Reward." Another benefit which the company received in return for its payments was that the usual City storage charges of $5 per day were often waived. One note made to explain a $100 payment reads, "Car was impounded by NYC Police and stored since Dec. 11th at $5.00 per day -- for a total of $385.00 -- was able to secure car with assistance and release without paying the storage of $385.00for the sum of $100.00." In another incident, when $100 was paid, the company saved some $1800 in storage charges: "Obtained this release to get car from the Pound where it was stored for about a year (without storage charges)."

Because witnesses invoked the Fifth Amendment, the Commission could get no direct testimonial evidence that all or even part of the money listed in company records was ever actually paid to police officers. However, the former manager of a City branch of the company testified in executive session that he had found that the only way to get cars back quickly in New York was to pay the police to expedite recovery of the cars. He said that the payments had risen since 1965, when he first came to the City and made about twelve payments of $3 to $5 himself, to the current figure of around $50. The current manager of another City branch also admitted knowledge of the practice.

The Commission found no evidence that other large automobile finance companies made similar cash payments to the police. One reason for this may be that the company which did payoff has a more lenient policy toward financing cars bought by residents of poor areas and, consequently, has more unpaid-for cars seized as evidence in criminal cases.

A sergeant who was at one time in charge of the Brooklyn Automobile Storage Yard was recently found guilty of accepting $50 from a citizen to expedite recovery of his car. This charge in no way involved a finance company but it does indicate that the finance company we investigated was not alone in paying police to hasten recovery of automobiles from the yards.

Payments to Precinct Patrolmen

According to a Commission informant employed by the automobile finance company in question, all automobile finance companies in the City paid $5 or $10 to patrolmen, sergeants, and lieutenants at the precinct level for help in locating a car they sought to repossess and for standing by while their agent broke into the car and drove it away (an activity which might well have attracted the police if they had not been notified that the agent was from a finance company and entitled to repossess the car for nonpayment).

On other occasions, agents of the repossession unit paid a token sum to police officers to overlook the fact that they did not have the proper papers drawn up for repossession.

In a third situation, repossession agents sometimes need to trespass onto private property (a driveway or a parking garage) in order to repossess a car, and in this case they have been known to pay police officers to overlook the fact that they did not have the necessary papers. In one such instance, two repossession agents had snapped the lock on a car and were preparing to drive it away when the car's owner appeared. He called the police, and when several officers responded, the owner demanded that they arrest the repossession agents. The agents were taken to the precinct house and a call was made to a retired policeman employed by the repossession unit. He went to the precinct house and reportedly paid five hundred dollars to the lieutenant on duty, after which the agents were released and no charges were pressed against them.


As is the case with respect to many businesses where paying police is customary, the custom can be substantially curtailed, if not stopped, if the businessman is willing. During the Commission's executive hearings into this matter, a letter went out over the signature of an executive vice-president of the finance company which paid police at the auto storage yards. It was sent to all the company's field representatives and instructed them that payments to government officials "are not to be made under any circumstances."
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