The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commission

Re: The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption: Commis

Postby admin » Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:51 am

Part 2 of 2

***

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.

***

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....

An employee of one major trucking firm, which did not payoff the police, told the Commission that his company paid between $48,000 and $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 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....

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."...


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.

***

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....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....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."...On still another occasion, Burkert was approached at the site of a tow job by a police officer asking for money....shaking down tow-truck drivers was a prevalent practice in New York...

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.

***

According to every police officer who cooperated with the Commission, it was common practice for policemen to make payments to each other for services rendered, ranging from the payment of a couple of dollars for typing up arrest reports to the payment of hundreds of dollars for choice assignments....The Commission heard numerous allegations of police officers paying other officers to handle routine work....both Droge and Logan stated that the practice of paying for temporary assignments was a common one. Payments were also made for getting one's choice of days off and of vacation dates. Phillips testified that the roll call man in a busy precinct could make $200 a month in this way...in some precincts, police officers bought permanent assignments from the administrative lieutenant for various amounts, commonly $500....appointment as a detective could be bought for a price which ranged from $500 to $2,000....police officers have bribed certain police surgeons to certify that they were permanently disabled, making it possible for those officers to retire early and receive all or part of their pensions. One doctor, a former police surgeon who has been retired for twenty years, told the Commission that surgeons took such kickbacks when he was in the Department, and that he believed the practice still to be in existence.

***

By far the most widespread form of misconduct the Commission found in the Police Department was the acceptance by police officers of gratuities in the form of free meals, free goods, and cash payments. Almost all policemen either solicited or accepted such favors in one form or another ....

It was not only the policeman on patrol who felt that his lunches should be provided free. Numerous examples were reported to the Commission of officers in the station house sending radio cars to local restaurants to pick up meals for police officers whose duties prevented them from getting out on the street....

The owner of one home-delivery food business which sold $2.00 fried chicken dinners found that his dinners were so popular with the police in his local precinct that they were ordering eighty to ninety dinners a week from him. This was substantially cutting into his profits, so he decided to start charging the police a nominal price of $.50 per dinner. This angered the police, who began issuing summonses to his delivery cars on every trip they made, resulting in $600 in summonses in one week. The owner called the Police Commissioner's office and explained his problem, and soon afterwards, he stopped receiving summonses. However, he had already dropped the $.50 charge per dinner....

Two patrolmen in particular confronted Commission investigators with a situation difficult to ignore by pulling up nightly to the back entrance of a fairly high-priced downtown restaurant located directly under the windows of the Commission's offices. The officers were served in their car by a uniformed waiter with a tray and a napkin draped over one arm.

Non-uniformed officers generally ordered less modest meals than uniformed patrolmen. Plainclothesmen, detectives, and high-level officers, who worked in civilian clothes instead of the conspicuous blue uniform, patronized a much wider selection of restaurants than the uniformed force, including many clearly in the luxury category. And the meals they ordered were often grandiose compared with the cafeteria-style food favored by uniformed men.

William Phillips, when assigned as a detective in a midtown precinct, regularly patronized, with other detectives, the very best restaurants, where he received gratis what he called "electric-chair meals." He reported that as he sipped the last drop of brandy after an enormous feast all he could think was "pull the switch, I'm ready to go!"....

The owner of one of New York's finest French restaurants reported to the Commission that he was approached by policemen demanding free dinners. When he flatly turned them down, they took retaliatory action: The restaurant was located on a street where parking was illegal before 7:00 P.M., and the police began showing up every night at 6:55 to tow away cars belonging to patrons....

The Commission's interest turned to hotels after a former hotel security officer came in with hotel records indicating that at least one hotel was paying off police in free meals, free rooms, and cash payments at Christmas....

Records from several of the hotels showed that they each fed as many as 300 to 400 meals a month to policemen in their employee dining rooms, mostly to patrolmen in uniform. The value of these meals was usually under $2.00 each. To get free meals in the employee dining rooms, the policemen generally went to the security office, where their uniforms -- or in the case of non-uniformed officers, their shields -- served as identification. They were either asked to sign the meal checks or hotel logs with their names and ranks or were given meal tickets to be turned in in the dining rooms. When the names given in the hotel checks and logs were checked against the precinct rosters, a sizable percentage of them proved to be false (including two uniformed officers identifying themselves as Whitman Knapp and Sydney Cooper, who was then chief of the Department's anti-corruption force).

In these same hotels, higher-ranking officers (sergeants, detectives, inspectors, lieutenants, captains, and one chief inspector) ate in the hotels' better restaurants, ordering the most expensive items on the menu, with the tab rarely coming to less than $20 per person in the larger midtown hotels. And the volume was substantial: over $500 a month at most hotels checked and $1,500 a month at the Statler-Hilton....

Bar owners and policemen also told the Commission that it was common practice for bars to offer free drinks to policemen. As discussed above in Chapter Eight, three patrol sergeants in the Nineteenth Precinct regularly spent their entire tours going from one bar to another. While the behavior of patrolmen was less extreme, there was plenty of drinking on duty and off by them, too, with no evidence of any attempt by superiors to stop it....

Payments to police at Christmas by bars, restaurants, hotels, department stores, and other retail businesses have long been a police tradition....A particularly rigorous campaign was waged against the practice in December of 1971, with the reported result that officers collected their Christmas gratuities in January, after the campaign was over.

Christmas money was usually collected in a fairly organized fashion. Early in December, lists were made up at many precinct houses, division headquarters, and squad rooms, on which were entered the names of all the businesses in their jurisdiction from which the police expected Christmas payments. The list was then divided up among the various officers, each of whom was to go to the businesses on his list and collect....

When asked how long the master list was, Patrolman Phillips said, "it was quite a long list, ten or fifteen yellow pages ... [it contained] every hotel, almost every bar, every cabaret, and other business establishments in the Seventeenth Precinct."...

The Christmas lists presented to hotels in particular were quite detailed, giving amounts to be paid to police officers of all ranks, up to and including the borough commander and Chief Inspector....

A number of merchants gave policemen gifts for services rendered and free merchandise. These included such items as free packages of cigarettes solicited by policemen from tobacco shops and grocery stores, free bags of groceries from retail stores, free service at dry cleaners and laundries, and free goods from factories and wholesalers. In his public testimony before the Commission Patrolman Droge stated that in one precinct in which he had served, police officers had used their tours to make the rounds of a bread factory, a frankfurter plant, and an ice cream plant, among others, stocking up on goods to take home. "I recall one police officer," said Droge, "who felt that if he didn't go home with a bag of groceries, then his tour wasn't complete."...

Proprietors of burglarized stores and factories, if they arrived at the scene before the police did, paid $5 a man to each officer who showed up. However, if the police arrived first, they often helped themselves to merchandise....

In many instances it is unfair to infer that payments of a gratuity necessarily reflected a shakedown by the police officer involved. A bar owner, restaurateur, or other businessman is usually most happy to have a police officer in or near his premises, and in a good many situations, payments -- particularly Christmas gratuities -- were made simply because the police officer became friendly with the local merchants in his patrol area. The fact is that the public by and large does not regard gratuities as a serious matter. While some may be offended by the occasionally arrogant way in which some police officers demand what they consider to be their due, most people are willing to allow a police officer who spends long hours providing protection for an area to stop in for a quick free meal or cup of coffee at an eating establishment which enjoys the benefit of his protection....

there would seem to be no reason why the practice of hotels providing free rooms to police officers could not be officially sanctioned. If an officer is forced to work late hours in any area of the City far from his home and is expected to be on duty or in court early the following morning, it does not seem unreasonable that he be provided with a hotel room, on a space available basis, with the expense being paid for by the City....

Assuming that hotel and restaurants actually do not wish to provide free meals and rooms to police officers, it has been demonstrated that they are not forced to. At the time of the Commission hearings, under the glare of publicity, many of the big hotels announced that they would no longer provide such services.

***

Although the Commission did not find conclusive evidence of police corruption involving loansharks, in the course of its work it came across numerous allegations of police collusion with loansharks and the nature of the business is such that corruption would seem to be an obvious hazard. Some policemen apparently shake down loansharks on a haphazard basis and others have been known to work for loansharks in various capacities, ranging from referring to potential borrowers to roughing up slow payers.

Another patrolman, currently under indictment in the Bronx, was described by Bronx County District Attorney Burton Roberts as "a $100-a-week collector for a loanshark operation."...Another patrolman in the Bronx is currently under indictment for allegedly operating a loanshark ring with two civilian partners....

Patrolman Phillips and others told the Commission that, when police officers were called upon to handle DOA's, they would sometimes go through the victim's pockets and steal anything of value. Likewise, when called to a house or apartment where someone has died, the police have been known to burglarize the premises if the deceased had been living alone. Similar burglaries have taken place after police officers escorted someone to the hospital, who turned out to be dead on arrival. In such cases, officers would take the dead person's keys and let themselves into his apartment, then take anything of value. Patrolman Phillips told the Commission that old people who die in the City frequently keep large sums of money hidden in their homes, apparently not trusting banks. He went on to say that thefts from DOA's in such circumstances have amounted to several thousand dollars....

Various informants told the Commission that truck hijackings almost always received police protection in one form or another. The Commission was told that various policemen were sometimes alerted ahead of time to a scheduled hijacking....

In the past few years, several instances have come to light of individual police involvement with auto theft rings. One of these dovetails with allegations received by the Commission that police officers sometimes ride shotgun for such outfits. The others involve payments for protection of such rings....

it was common practice for policemen responding to burglarized premises to steal items the previous thieves had left behind....

"Me and my partner went in the back of the building [where] a door was open. We went in. There was about six or seven radio cars out front. A lot of cops was inside. Everybody was stuffing clothes down their pants, in their shirt, up their sleeves. Everybody looking fat because they were stuffing so much clothes in their pants. And my partner was telling me that the owners usually take it out on their income tax...."

Commission agents, while conducting a surveillance of an afterhours bar after midnight, stumbled upon a flagrant example of what appeared to be a compound burglary. The agents noticed an unoccupied police car parked next to a meat packing company where a door was ajar. They soon saw men in police uniforms emerge from the packing company carrying large, paper-wrapped packages which they loaded into the car. In the next few hours, four other police cars (the entire motor patrol force for one-half of the precinct) responded to the site. Police officers from four of the five cars were seen putting packages from the company into their cars....

Before Phillips was caught by the Commission, he had arranged for a man accused of possession of a stolen $250,000 check to make contact with a lawyer who claimed he could bribe any of several judges. The man was represented in these negotiations by a Commission informant wearing a transmitter. The lawyer asked for $10,000 to fix the case, saying he could give an 80% guarantee of acquittal. The lawyer received an initial payment of $4,500 before the informant's transmitter was discovered by Patrolman Phillips and the negotiations broken off. The Commission has no way of knowing the truth of the representations made by the lawyer, who fled the country after being discovered....

The Commission received several allegations that applicants for pistol permits have made payments to the appropriate precinct captain in order to get permits. The fee was usually reported to be $100, requested by the clerical officer to expedite approval of the application for a permit, with the understanding that the money would be passed on to the precinct commander....

Companies doing background checks on job applicants have, in the past, paid police officers for looking through Department records to determine whether the applicants had criminal records, and for supplying copies of these records. In 1971, following an investigation by the Department of Investigation, nine policemen and fourteen corporations were indicted in New York courts for participating in the sale of records of this kind....One detective was found to have performed checks for at least seven companies for over fifteen years, netting more than $15,000 a year for this service....

The Commission heard numerous allegations from Gypsies and others that some policemen, particularly detectives assigned to the Pickpocket and Confidence Squad (PP&C), received payments from Gypsy confidence artists who swindle people who come to them for advice, particularly the elderly. In return for the payoffs, officers did what they could to insure that the swindlers would not be apprehended and arrested....

The most common of the Gypsy confidence games is the Gypsy blessing, usually perpetrated by self-styled Gypsy "spiritual advisors" on lonely elderly women who seek their advice. After several visits, they are usually told that the cause of their problems is a "curse" which someone has placed on their money. These women are told that the curse can be removed only by the Gypsy blessing, and they are advised to bring their money in to be blessed. When the money is brought in, the advisor sews it up in a special bag, which is switched for an identical bag containing paper. The victim is told to put this bag away in a dark place like a bank vault for a specified time -- often two years -- and warned that if she should open the bag before the time is up the money will vanish. The Commission was told that such thefts range from a few hundred dollars to as much as $40,000....

The number of people caught and convicted for participating in any type of criminal activity is always a small fraction of those actually involved. It is difficult to make arrests and even more difficult to satisfy standards of proof necessary for convictions with respect to many crimes which, nevertheless, are quite apparently being committed on a large scale. For the Commission's purposes, tape-recorded conversations in which corrupt police officers discussed their activities with undercover agents were invaluable even though such evidence is, under current law, insufficient to establish guilt without further corroboration. Using criminal convictions to measure the extent of police corruption is particularly worthless because the transactions are necessarily secret and those involved in them are extremely unlikely to complain....

In the past a number of administrative defects precluded effective investigations of police corruption in New York City and indicated a lack of adequate planning by the Department's top management. Specifically, the Department's machinery for detecting and investigating police corruption was fragmented and even when unified was not given official standing, adequate records, or adequate manpower. In addition, the Department often failed to use appropriate and effective techniques of investigation....

To correct this organizational fragmentation, the various units charged with searching out misconduct within the Department and with maintaining internal integrity and efficiency were brought together in an Inspection Services Bureau (ISB). Command of this Bureau was vested in the First Deputy Commissioner....However, until Commissioner Murphy took over the Department, the ISB lacked the authority and resources necessary for its job....

there are indications that there was also some reluctance on the part of top level police personnel to undertake investigations that might have led to exposure of widespread corruption inconsistent with the official line that corruption was limited to a few "rotten apples."...

An example is the untouched file of specific and serious allegations against New York City police officers that was found by Commission investigators in the course of an early investigation into narcotics corruption. The allegations, which concerned seventy-two officers, had been referred to the Department by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) during a fourteen-month period beginning in April, 1968....

Although the Commission found evidence that the existence and contents of this file were known to the supervisors of the Inspectional Services Bureau, nothing -- as far as the Commission was able to ascertain -- was ever done about the allegations until our investigators came upon the file in the late fall of 1970....

the fact remains that the Department was given reason to suspect that some of its members were extortionists, murderers, and heroin entrepreneurs and made no attempt to verify these suspicions or dispute them....

On April 30, 1970, two BNDD inspectors met with the Chief of the Narcotics Division. At this meeting, serious allegations against nine members of the Narcotics Division were revealed and discussed in detail....no departmental action was ever taken on these allegations....

In the files of the Internal Affairs Division, Commission agents found a request from BNDD for assistance from the Department in an operation which might have led to the exposure of certain police officers believed to be involved in the sale of narcotics. The request had been forwarded by Deputy Inspector John Norey, commander of the Intelligence Division, to First Deputy Commissioner Walsh, who in turn sent it to Supervising Assistant Chief Inspector John McGovern, then the commander of IAD and Walsh's right hand man in corruption investigations. The request was never acted upon. Instead, it was filed with an attached coversheet with two notations written on it in the hand of Chief McGovern. One note reads "I want to get our men out of that." The other, apparently referring to instructions from the First Deputy Commissioner, says, "Norey 11/19/69 -- IDC doesn't want to help the feds lock up local police. Let them arrest federal people."....

Responsibility for investigating corruption has always -- in theory at least -- rested with commanders. But as former First Deputy Commissioner John Walsh testified, reports submitted at six-month intervals from field commanders about corruption in their units always indicated the absence of corruption....

Whatever its obvious hazards, vesting primary responsibility for all but the most serious corruption investigations in the commands concerned appears to be the most rational way for the Police Department to deal with the problem on more than an emergency basis.

***

Investigation of misconduct is the first step in a sequence of possible actions against allegedly corrupt police officers. Within the Department the next step is the disciplinary process. The disciplinary options available to the Commission in corruption cases as well as others are limited. Moreover, even these options have not always been utilized fully or effectively. The formal disciplinary apparatus was and is overburdened and understaffed, and the range of penalties available to deal with officers convicted in Departmental Hearings is inadequate....

Early in his tenure Commissioner Murphy clouded the general excellence of his promotions by elevating to high rank a few officers whose integrity was widely questioned throughout the Department. These promotions raised doubts in the minds of many officers about the sincerity of his intentions to root out corruption....

Joseph McGovern, a former Supervising Assistant Chief Inspector and Chief of Inspectional Services, testified before this Commission that he could not think of a single precinct commander who had been shifted for failure to maintain the integrity of his command. Indeed there is little evidence to suggest that such derelictions by subordinates ever seriously impeded a commander's rise to higher rank....

Commissioner Murphy has revised departmental disciplinary procedures so that precinct commanders can immediately and directly discipline the men under them with penalties of up to loss of five days vacation time for a number of violations of departmental rules....With this important exception, the Murphy administration has been able to make few visible changes in the Department's disciplinary structure and procedures. On the whole, the structure and procedures are prescribed by the City's Administrative Code or the State's Civil Service Law and therefore can be changed only through the time-consuming and sometimes difficult process of legislative amendment. Consequently, the way the Department now handles major charges of misconduct against its members -- including most charges of corruption -- is the same way it has handled them for years....

The volume of cases reaching the Department Advocate and the Trials Deputy is seriously straining their capacity....over the year he himself probably averages three or four trials per working day....The Department Advocate is only a little better off than the Trials Deputy. He has a staff of six uniformed and two civilian lawyers. These nine men processed 1937 cases during 1971....It is easy to see that if eight men have an annual caseload of 1900, whenever one man spends more than a day disposing of a case another man has to dispose of two or three cases a day -- and that includes both preparation time and trial time....Lack of adequate time for preparation in the not very recent past was so common that Detective Frank Serpico, the chief witness in the departmental trials of a number of Bronx plainclothesmen, was put on the stand without having been given any opportunity to refresh his recollection and asked to testify concerning four-year-old events. However, the advocate's caseload has been reduced by the new procedure which grants commanders authority to handle command discipline cases. Before this new procedure was instituted, the Department Advocate's caseload was approaching 200 a month....

Since there were 909 cases pending at the beginning of calendar 1971 and 880 pending at the end of it, there was no great progress in clearing up the backlog. The Department Advocate estimates that the average time consumed between charges and disposition is six months or more. These delays pose a problem in terms of the thirty-day rule which governs departmental hearings. Under this rule, an officer suspected of or charged with misconduct is permitted to put in his retirement papers and retire thirty days later, at which time he becomes immune to departmental disciplinary proceedings and eligible to receive his pension if he has served long enough to qualify for one. This results in a thirty-day race, with a suspected officer seeking to retire before the disciplinary proceedings against him can be completed. Although only a handful of policemen escaped discipline by this route, the ones who did escape often were the most serious offenders. For example, there were ten thirty-day cases in 1970. Trials were held in seven of them, resulting in five dismissals from the force and two acquittals. In the first of the remaining three, the defendant executed a complex technical maneuver that probably will never be repeated. In the second, the defendant was in a psychiatric hospital. However, in the third case, a bribe-receiving case against a lieutenant that may well have been that year's most important case, the lieutenant's lawyer was able to prolong the trial, which began twenty-five days before the deadline, past that deadline's expiration, enabling the lieutenant to retire with his full pension....

There are no statistics reflecting the number of situations where a police officer resigned before charges were brought but after he realized he was in danger of being charged. Under these circumstances, the Department might well never attempt to bring charges since it is virtually impossible to complete disciplinary proceedings within thirty days unless the investigation and preparation of the case has already been completed....

Perhaps the most troublesome issue in the disciplining of policemen found guilty in departmental hearings is the inappropriateness of the available penalties. The Administrative Code provides no gradations of penalty between outright dismissal from the force and a fine of up to and including thirty days' pay or vacation followed by a year's probation. [i] The Commission has recommended that the disciplinary alternatives available to the Police Commissioner be broadened to include greater periods than thirty days. However, even the available penalties were often utilized in the past to treat corrupt officers in a lenient manner....

The Police Commissioner's decisions on penalties in disciplinary hearings are subject to judicial review, and in fact have been reversed in several recent, well-publicized corruption cases. The reasons for reversal usually centered on the requirement for pension forfeiture upon dismissal for cause from the force. This was one of the considerations that motivated the Commission's recommendation, discussed in the Summary, for the separation of pension considerations from departmental disciplinary hearings. The Department should not be obliged to keep corrupt police officers in its ranks merely because some courts feel that loss of pension is too harsh a penalty for some offenses....

It should be noted that a fine of thirty days' pay or less of active-duty officers is usually not all taken out of the next paycheck, but is taken out one or two days at a time from each subsequent paycheck.

***

Judge Fraiman characterized the Police Department as an autonomous and powerful agency which " ... does pretty well what it wishes to do and is not answerable to the Department of Investigation....This was clearly evidenced in the Police Department's failure to comply with Mayor Lindsay's May, 1969, directive instructing all City agencies immediately to notify the Department of Investigation of any allegation of misconduct or corruption involving a public employee. The Police Department did not comply until after the establishment of this Commission, when the Mayor issued an Executive Order in August, 1970, reaffirming this procedure.

-- THE KNAPP COMMISSION REPORT ON POLICE CORRUPTION: COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS OF POLICE CORRUPTION AND THE CITY'S ANTI-CORRUPTION PROCEDURES
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