PART 1 OF 3CHAPTER TWO: THE STATE OF MODERN POLICE CORRUPTION
"The crooks, however, that you have uncovered, the criminals seem to be a different breed of criminals [than twenty-years ago], ... the guys you're digging up, these guys are walking around with lead-lined gloves and riding shotgun for organized crime people, it seems to me they have changed the nature of being a 'meat eater' in the Department. Instead of taking money to look the other way while someone else commits a street crime, they're out there competing with the criminals to commit street crimes themselves; and it seems to me that is a very big difference. "
-- Michael Armstrong, Chief Counsel, Knapp Commission, Testifying before the Mollen Commission, October 7, 1993
The new nature of police corruption this Commission observed shatters many of the traditional, and more comforting, notions of police corruption that existed at the time our investigation began. When former police officer Michael Dowd was arrested in May 1992, the Department maintained that he was an aberration and that corruption was limited to a few "rogue cops." Police corruption was said to be a matter of isolated and sporadic opportunities, rather than planned or organized group efforts. It was said to be motivated solely by greed, nothing more. The Commission found that these notions of police corruption were wrong and vastly underestimate the serious nature of present-day corruption.
Today's corruption is far more criminal, violent and premeditated than traditional notions of police corruption suggest and far more invidious than corruption of a generation ago. Testimony and field investigations demonstrated that its most salient forms include groups of officers protecting and assisting drug traffickers for often sizable profits -- stealing drugs, guns and money -- and often selling the stolen drugs and guns to or through criminal associates; committing burglary and robbery; conducting unlawful searches of apartments, cars and people; committing perjury and falsifying statements; and sometimes using excessive force, often in connection with corruption. Greed is the primary motive behind these activities, but a complex array of other powerful motives and conditions also spur corruption.
How widespread this corruption is in the New York City Police Department is difficult to gauge. With a staff of under twenty investigators and attorneys it was, of course, impossible to determine the full scope of the problem in the Department's seventy-five precincts and other commands. What we have concluded, however, is that in precincts where certain conditions exist -- in particular an active and open narcotics trade and high crime -- pockets of corruption are likely to exist in varying degrees of seriousness, frequency and size.I. THE COMMISSION'S INVESTIGATIONS
The Commission's findings are based on the consistent and repeated results of our field investigations; on information from hundreds of sources both in and out of the Department; and on an extensive analysis of patterns of corruption complaints. While we cannot disclose the full details of certain Commission field operations that are still under investigation, we can disclose that in every high-crime precinct with an active narcotics trade that this Commission examined, we found some level of corruption to exist. For example, the Commission's investigation into Manhattan North's 30th Precinct, which has thus far resulted in the arrest of fourteen police officers, revealed that a significant percentage of the precinct routinely engaged in some form of corruption. It further revealed that numerous other officers were complicit through their silence and protection of these corrupt cops.
Evidence disclosed at the Commission's public hearings in the Fall of 1993 suggests that groups of officers engaged in various levels of corruption in other narcotics-ridden precincts as well, including Manhattan South's 9th Precinct, the Bronx's 46th Precinct, Brooklyn North's 75th Precinct, and in the 73rd Precinct where the Commission's joint investigation with state and federal prosecutors has thus far led to the arrest of seven police officers on federal charges since our public hearings.
In evaluating the nature and extent of corruption, the Commission sought information from a variety of sources. Our first sources of information came from within the Commission and its staff. Our senior investigators were former police officers with long and varied experience within the Department. They were thoroughly familiar with the operations of the Department, its culture, and the likely sources of corruption facing officers today. In addition, like the Commissioners themselves, most of our staff attorneys had extensive experience in law enforcement and were thoroughly familiar with the operations of the criminal justice system. From the outset, therefore, our collective knowledge and experience guided the focus of our inquiry into the state of corruption.
Initially, we analyzed thousands of Department documents and corruption case files pertaining to corruption and reviewed thousands of corruption complaints lodged at Internal Affairs over the past five years. At the same time, Commission staff members conducted over one hundred private hearings or informal interviews with current and former members of the Department, including Internal Affairs officers of all ranks. Scores of interviews were also conducted with law enforcement officers from a number of agencies including the District Attorneys' Offices, the United States Attorneys' Offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. We also interviewed defense attorneys, criminal defendants, private citizens who resided in precincts suspected of corruption and criminal informants who claimed to have knowledge of police corruption.
A number of police officers assigned to Internal Affairs and other commands who came forward on a confidential basis, provided us with invaluable information about corrupt activities. At an early stage of our investigation we therefore had a fairly clear picture of the prevalent forms of corruption within the Department, much of which involved the drug trade.
But the Commission's obligation extended beyond simply compiling information and allegations about corruption. We knew we must produce hard evidence, if any existed, of the extent and nature of corruption within the Department. This could be accomplished not only through our field investigations, but also through information and testimony provided by corrupt cops. Throughout our investigation we therefore sought to find police officers who had engaged in corruption who were willing to talk candidly about their own corrupt acts and those of their fellow officers. We knew that this would be no easy task. The code of silence was strong and would deter even officers publicly accused or convicted of corruption from talking frankly with us. But we also knew that if a corrupt officer could be persuaded to provide testimony or information about corruption based on personal experience, this would be of inestimable value to the Commission.
In the course of our investigation we obtained the cooperation of such officers. Sometimes with the assistance of various law enforcement agencies, we persuaded several corrupt officers to provide information to Commission investigators. Because of the constraints of continuing investigations at this time, we can identify only six: former police officer Michael Dowd of the 75th and 94th Precincts; former police officers Kevin Hembury, Philip Carlucci and Daniel Eurell of the 73rd Precinct; former police officer Bernard Cawley of the 46th Precinct; former detective Jeffrey Beck of the Drug Enforcement Task Force; and several police officers cooperating in the 30th Precinct investigation. Of these, Dowd, Hembury and Cawley testified about their careers of corruption at the Commission's public hearings. In addition, we secured the cooperation of a number of civilian accomplices and associates of corrupt police officers. These included "Mr. X," a widely used law enforcement informant, who testified at the Commission's public hearings under a pseudonym about corruption he observed among officers of the 9th Precinct.
Armed with fairly substantial knowledge of the likely patterns and locations of police corruption gained from our own analysis of corruption trends and information from reliable sources, the Commission staff launched a number of self-initiated field investigations where police corruption was likely to exist. Of course, with limited time and resources, we were unable to examine every precinct in the City, or even all the precincts where we found indications of corruption to exist. We therefore concentrated our efforts on those commands we thought were most likely to produce evidence of corruption. Because evidence generated from Commission field investigations has been turned over to prosecutors, we cannot at this time identify all the precincts in which we operated or all the details of our operations. But, whenever possible, we employed the full panoply of investigative techniques, including electronic surveillance, undercover agents, informants and cooperating or "turned" police officers.
One critical point is that our investigative approach vastly differed from the Department's limited approach to the investigation of police corruption. Instead of focusing simply on the single corrupt cop, we designed our investigations to gain evidence of broad patterns of criminal conduct and conspiratorial wrongdoing. In essence, we approached our investigation as the Department would typically approach any investigation of organized and continuing criminal activity -- except for police corruption. That the Department did not apply these basic approaches to their own corruption investigations speaks volumes about its past reluctance to uncover the full extent of police corruption in our City.
Our methods and philosophy in investigating police corruption are best illustrated by our investigation into the 30th Precinct. The Commission set out to determine whether precincts in the City suffered from corruption more widespread and complex than Internal Affairs had uncovered by the narrow "rotten apple" approach that characterized its investigations.
We began the 30th Precinct investigation by targeting precincts that exhibited the conditions that signal corruption hazards: densely populated, high-crime areas with extensive drug dealing, patrolled by tight-knit groups of officers. With these conditions in mind, we conducted an analysis of the patterns and volume of corruption complaints lodged at Internal Affairs, a review of their past investigations in certain precincts, and an analysis of individual officers with long histories of corruption allegations. The results of our analysis -- based largely on information the Police Department had known about, but ignored, for years -- focused our attention on the 30th Precinct.
In December 1992, approximately three months after the Commission staff was assembled, Commission investigators began a series of proactive investigative tactics that had been sorely lacking from the Department's internal investigations for years. Before long, our investigation identified a group of police officers who we suspected were engaged in drug corruption. Within a month, Commission investigators developed a confidential informant who confirmed that a number of police officers in the 30th Precinct were accepting payoffs from drug dealers in bodegas and various other storefront locations in the neighborhood. We immediately put our informant to work in an undercover capacity. Wearing a body recorder under the Commission's supervision, the informant was able to engage in a number of criminal transactions with an individual we suspected of paying off police officers to protect drug operations. At this time, the Commission notified the United States Attorney's Office and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office of the evidence.
In the Summer of 1993, Commission investigators arrested a civilian targeted in our undercover operations who acted as the intermediary for drug dealers who were paying off police officers for protection of their drug operations. After his arrest, this individual agreed to cooperate with the Commission and the United States Attorney's Office.
His cooperation allowed us to develop substantial evidence of drug-related corruption against a police officer who had approximately seventeen corruption allegations already filed against him at Internal Affairs, most of which involved narcotics. None of these allegations had ever been substantiated by Internal Affairs.
At this stage of the investigation, the Commission and the United States Attorney notified the Police Commissioner about our investigation. He pledged the assistance of Internal Affairs to aid the investigation.
In the Fall and Winter of 1993, the investigation developed sufficient evidence to arrest two 30th Precinct police officers on charges of narcotics conspiracy. When faced with these charges, both officers agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Over the past months, these officers have worked in an undercover capacity, wearing recording devices, under the supervision of the Commission, the United States Attorney and selected members of the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau.
We discovered that the Department's past belief that corrupt officers will not cooperate or turn against fellow officers was wrong. When confronted with serious criminal charges, corrupt cops -- like most other criminals -- are often eager to assist prosecutors in exchange for consideration. The powerful code of silence has its limits. Indeed, largely because of this willingness to cooperate, the code name this investigation acquired was "Operation Domino."
The fruits of this investigation have thus far resulted in the arrest of fourteen police officers and ten of their drug dealer associates -- one of the largest, and most serious, police corruption cases in a generation. The investigation is still continuing at the time of the publication of this Report and additional arrests are anticipated.
Of course, the Commission could not produce an estimate of the full extent of corruption within the Department with scientific precision. We recognize that our concentration on corruption-prone precincts necessarily focused our attention on the Department's integrity problems. Notwithstanding this focus, what is significant about our findings is that whenever we searched for corruption, we found it. This helped lead to our unilateral conclusion: that where certain narcotics and high-crime conditions exist, serious corruption is likely to appear in various degrees of frequency and scope. Our conclusions, therefore, about the nature and extent of present day police corruption was borne out by specific observations made on those areas we were able to examine in detail.
It is these findings on the nature and extent of corruption to which we now turn.II. THE NEW NATURE OF CORRUPTION: AN OVERVIEW
Corruption and Drugs
Most serious police corruption today arises from the drug trade. And, not surprisingly, it is most prevalent in drug-infested precincts where opportunities for corruption most abound -- and the probabilities of detection have been slim. The explosion of the cocaine and crack trade in the mid-1980s fueled the opportunities for corruption by flooding certain neighborhoods with drugs and cash, and created opportunities for cops and criminals to profit from each other. It also eliminated the unwritten rule of twenty years ago that narcotics graft is "dirty money" that is not touched even by corrupt officers. With that change in attitude and opportunity came a wide spectrum of drug-related corruption ranging from opportunistic thefts from street dealers, to carefully planned group assaults on drug locations, and long term partnerships with narcotics traffickers.
The seriousness of drug-related corruption must not be minimized. Many have mistakenly characterized today's corruption as cops "merely" stealing from drug dealers -- or, in other words, punishing those who deserve to be punished. This is wrong. Today's narcotics corruption involves not only cops stealing from dealers, but cops using their authority to permit dealers and narcotics enterprises to operate freely and flourish on the streets of our City. Even worse: today's corruption involves officers using their police powers to actively assist, facilitate and strengthen the drug trade. Thus, the victims of corruption are not the drug dealers on the streets of East New York. Indeed, they are often corruption's beneficiaries. The victims of today's corruption are the thousands of law-abiding individuals who live in the high-crime, drug-ridden precincts of our City. They are victimized not only by the crime and drug trade in their neighborhoods, but by the assistance of officers who protect drug dealers rather than provide the police protection and services the public so desperately needs. Furthermore, cops who associate with drug dealers in the open view of the public breed cynicism among citizens. It breeds the sense of abandonment and hostility that poisons relations between the community and corrupt and honest cops alike. And corruption victimizes the millions of law-abiding residents of this City who depend upon the credibility and effectiveness of the police to fight the war against crime that threatens us all.
There is another new feature of narcotics-related corruption that the Commission observed. Unlike twenty years ago, today's corruption does not reach high into the chain of command. While certain supervisors engaged in corruption, most corruption was carried out by uniformed patrol officers who are surrounded daily by drug traffickers operating in the streets, apartments and storefronts of their precincts.
Nonetheless, even the most elite units of the Department are not immune to the temptations of the drug trade. For example, while the Commission was in the midst of its inquiries in March 1993, two Department detectives, along with a State Police investigator assigned to the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force -- a highly reputed operation staffed by the Police Department, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and the New York State Police -- were convicted of stealing drugs, money and jewelry from legitimate large-scale seizures, and enlisting the aid of an informant to sell the stolen drugs. And recently a detective assigned to the Organized Crime Investigation Division was arrested for selling confidential police information to members of organized crime.
We do not mean to suggest that all corruption today is linked to the drug trade or limited to drug-infested precincts. While the most pervasive forms of corruption are drug-related, the Commission learned about more traditional forms of corruption as well. These include officers who conspired with business owners to exaggerate insurance claims in return for a percentage of the recovery, received kickbacks for referrals to tow truck companies, befriended local store owners for free meals, drinks and merchandise, and used Department computers to sell various types of police information.
It is important to note, however, that as with drug-related corruption the vast majority of officers do not engage in these more traditional forms of corruption. To the contrary, most officers confront and reject these types of opportunities each day. Nonetheless, these forms of corruption should not be ignored by the Department. Many officers told this Commission that corruption is evolutionary: that it begins with minor misconduct and grows into serious corruption and crime. Thus efforts to prevent serious corruption must not disregard these more minor forms of corruption. The focus of this Commission, however, has been on uncovering the most pervasive forms of corruption today. These were typically serious crimes linked to drugs.The New Character of Police Corruption
That minor forms of corruption are no longer the most pervasive reflects a significant change in the nature of police corruption. Twenty years ago, the most common form of corruption was relatively minor. Officers of all ranks took bribes to allow gamblers, prostitutes and others to avoid the law and escape arrest. These "grass-eaters," as the Knapp Commission called them, constituted the majority of cops in the Department at that time; serious corruption, committed by what the Knapp Commission called "meat-eaters," was relative rare. Today the situation is reversed. Minor corruption is no longer systemic among the ranks. And for that the Department should be commended. But the "meat-eaters" are the rule rather than the exception among corrupt cops today.
Corruption of a generation ago was primarily characterized by a mutually beneficial accommodation between cop and criminal. Criminals offered bribes in return for immunity from arrest and cops accepted them -- principally through standardized bribery "pads" which were highly systemic and hierarchial bribery schemes for the distribution and collection of bribes among police officers. In contrast, today's corruption is primarily characterized by serious criminal activity. Officers in numerous narcotics-infested precincts throughout the City routinely stormed drug locations and stole whatever drugs, money or other property they could find; they stopped drug dealers and their vehicles and stole from them openly; and they sometimes used violence to carry out these activities.
Much of the corruption we found, however, was a modern form of accommodation corruption -- and was far more serious and damaging than the accommodation corruption of the past. Criminals paid cops not only to turn a blind eye to criminal activities in their precincts; they paid cops to work hand-in-hand with them to actively facilitate their criminal activities. And many cops went so far to assist criminals that they used their police powers to become criminals themselves. Corrupt officers of generations past did not actually operate gambling or bootlegging establishments; they took money to allow them to operate. Michael Dowd, Bernard Cawley and others, however, did not just permit dealers to operate, they became dealers themselves and protected, assisted and helped to operate large drug rings."Crew" Corruption: The New Organization of Corruption
Many in the law enforcement community have remarked that "organized corruption" has vanished since the days of the Knapp Commission. This is partially -- but not entirely -- true. There is nothing today that corresponds to the long-running, institutionally perpetuated "pad" of twenty years ago. And the simplest, most common form of narcotics corruption today -- lone officers "stealing" drugs and money from dealers -- does not involve much group planning or organization.
Virtually all of the corruption we uncovered, however, involved groups of officers -- called "crews" -- that protect and assist each others' criminal activities. This was accomplished in a variety of ways, including: identifying drug sites; planning raids; forcibly entering and looting drug trafficking locations; and sharing proceeds according to regular and agreed-upon principles. These crews vary in closeness, purpose and size. In the 30th Precinct, a large group of cops worked in quasi-independent groups of three to five officers, each protecting and assisting the other's criminal activities. In the 73rd Precinct, a tightly knit group of eight to ten officers who worked together on steady tours of duty, routinely conducted unlawful raids on drug locations while on duty from 1988 to 1992. Sometimes most of the squad, ten to twelve officers, would attend clandestine meetings in desolate locations in the precincts -- like one known as "the Morgue," an abandoned coffin factory -- to drink, avoid patrol duties and plan future raids.
When Kaplan and Caracappa met, they followed a protocol designed to prevent detection. Caracappa's mother lived on Staten Island near the Verrazano Bridge. Her house on Kramer Street was a modest bungalow. Caracappa often spent his weekends there. If Kaplan wanted to meet "Marco" he set a time with Caracappa. At the appointed hour, Kaplan pulled up outside Caracappa's mother's house and beeped his horn. He then proceeded down Kramer Street. There was a small cemetery surrounded by a chain-link fence. The headstones were modest, the surnames Italian. The cemetery was nearly always empty. Kaplan would get out of his car and wait for Caracappa. The two men would walk and talk along the pathways between the graves. The cemetery rolled into a small rise overlooking the rowhouses and affording a view of the Verrazano Narrows. It was the place where Caracappa passed along information that led to many murders, and received money in return. The exchanges were ghoulish -- the Eagle and Marco taunting the dead.
-- The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia, by Guy Lawson & William Oldham
The 75th Precinct had a similar gathering location known as "the Pool" -- an isolated inlet near Jamaica Bay -- where Michael Dowd and as many as fifteen other officers from his crew would meet while on duty, to drink, shoot their guns, meet their girlfriends and plan future criminal activities. Another former police officer, Bernard Cawley from the Bronx's 46th Precinct, told the Commission how he and various members of his crew of approximately twelve police officers routinely burgled drug locations and beat local residents as well as suspected criminals. In the 9th Precinct, groups of officers would meet in a local store to drink, use cocaine, and avoid their duties.
This "crew" corruption displays a new and disturbing form of organization. Whereas pads were standardized and hierarchical -- almost bureaucratic -- crews are more akin to street gangs: small, loyal, flexible, fast moving, and often hard hitting. They establish areas to plan and discuss their operations. They often structure their legitimate police work to generate the leads they need to locate promising targets. They use the police radio network, and code names, to mount and coordinate operations. They often use Department equipment to force entry. They manipulate fellow officers, their supervisors, and the courts to their advantage. And they fuel each other's corruption through their eagerness to prove their loyalty and toughness to one another.
There is another feature of today's corruption that reflects planning and organization among officers: corruption pacts. Engaging in open criminality safely requires an agreement among the officers involved. Having such an agreement was critical to their corrupt conduct because it was a way to doubly insure that fellow officers witnessing their crimes would not report them. As Dowd, Hembury, and Cawley testified at the Commission's public hearings, early in their tenure with their partners, they came to an agreement to share the proceeds of their corrupt activities. In Dowd's case, the agreements were quite explicit. Dowd told Commission investigators that each time he was assigned a new partner, he would deliberately "test" his willingness to engage in corruption by soliciting his partner to engage in minor forms of misconduct, such as taking free food and drinking on duty. Once he knew that his partner would engage in minor misconduct, he formed an express pact with him to share the proceeds of whatever corrupt acts they engaged in and to protect each other from detection. Apparently, each of his partners was willing to enter into such an agreement.
In other cases, the agreement was not as explicit. In Hembury's case, for example, there was no express agreement between him and his partners to share the proceeds of their thefts. Their corruption was a course of conduct that developed over time. Consequently, a tacit agreement arose whereby an officer who stole money would split it with his partner and any other officer who participated in the theft. Interestingly, in most cases, even if officers had a prior agreement to split money, they would not do so unless the other officer was actually present during the theft and knew about it. There is no honor among thieves, even if they happen to be police officers.Methods to Create Corruption Opportunities
We also found that corrupt cops did not just stumble upon opportunities for corruption, they sought them out. Numerous corrupt cops told us how they would elicit information from street dealers and other civilian accomplices on where large quantities of money and drugs could be found and when they would be transported. They would then attempt to steal from these "stash houses" or "bag men" transporting large quantities of cash. Dowd told us how he would "sniff out" potentially profitable radio runs -- and respond to those calls to be the first to arrive on the scene and fill his pockets freely. In the 30th Precinct, a group of cops devised a way to identify drug locations and stash houses based on the type of keys in a suspect's possession. Cops would unlawfully frisk suspected dealers and search known hiding places in apartment buildings for what they called "felony keys" -- keys to expensive locks. Since most residents in this low-income precinct had standard locks on their doors, a high security lock indicated a drug location, which the cops would then find and raid. Once inside a drug location, dealers usually hid their goods in floor tiles or other areas known as "traps" out of fear of rival dealers, robbers, and law enforcement. This did not hinder cops in pursuit of profit: they would climb into crawl spaces and rip out wall panelling or floor tiles -- often with the aid of devices like bathroom plungers -- until as Dowd put it the "gold mine" was hit.Methods To Escape Detection
Methods for evading detection often were similarly sophisticated and premeditated. In the 30th Precinct there was a highly organized method of regular protection payments from dealer to cop. Cops were too clever to accept payments directly from dealers. Instead, dealers would leave cash in brown paper bags for their police accomplices in neighborhood stores. The cop would then visit the location, and walk out with a brown bag filled with cash. Some of these payment schemes were fairly systematic, others were more opportunistic. One 30th Precinct officer allegedly picked up $2,000 in cash each week, off-duty, at a local shop. Michael Dowd picked up $8,000 in cash every Tuesday from an auto stereo shop that was a known drug location in his precinct, while on duty and in uniform.
To further insure their protection, corrupt -- and even honest -- cops would warn each other when Internal Affairs or a law enforcement "outsider" was in the precinct. They would transmit code words over their police radios -- like "W0-10" which meant "watch out 7 + 3" or 73rd Precinct -- to warn of "unfriendlies" in the area. In the 73rd Precinct, corrupt cops would use code names to identify each other and certain locations over police frequencies to carry out corrupt activities.
They also employed a division of labor in carrying out corrupt acts. While committing an unlawful raid, for example, cops would regularly assign each other specific roles for carrying out the raid and insuring that they were protected from other cops and supervisors. To keep their victims quiet, they would employ a variety of schemes including leaving the dealer with some of his money or drugs, foregoing arrests, or threatening them with the consequences of making a report.
Other conditions also protected corrupt cops. First, victims of police corruption did not need much prodding to remain silent. They are often reluctant to report corruption. Internal Affairs' reliance on complaints for investigations meant that not only were officers safe from detection, but that the Department's official corruption statistics vastly underestimated the extent of the corruption problem in its precincts. More important, corrupt officers were typically protected by the silence of their fellow officers, and often the willful blindness of supervisors.Profile of Today's Corrupt Cop; The Erosion Factor
The crime and drug-ridden conditions that breed corruption opportunities are often so overwhelming and frustrating that they breed corrosive changes in attitudes and principles even among initially dedicated and honest cops. As a result, our findings revealed that the traditional -- and rather comforting -- notion that most corrupt cops "slipped through the cracks" during recruitment and should never have been permitted to join the Department is not always true.
Some of the most notoriously corrupt cops in the Department, were ideal recruits on paper: excellent references and employment histories, well respected and liked in their communities, and good scores on their psychological evaluations. Framed as an issue of "nature versus nurture," we found that the latter -- the influence of precinct environments and job culture -- often controlled. While there is no excuse for succumbing to corruption, regular and constant exposure to certain conditions and opportunities in crime-ridden precincts changes the attitudes and behavior of some officers. This erosion theory of corruption helps explain why so many initially dedicated cops become corrupt. It further explains why so many honest cops are able to tolerate and overlook corruption among colleagues.
We also found that many -- although not all -- of these corrupt cops looked similarly "ideal" while in the Department: many of the 30th Precinct officers, for example, had outstanding performance and award records. Some had well over a dozen awards and honors for police work. Some cops performed well because despite their corruption they wanted to be effective cops; others because a stellar police performance served as a good cover to corruption. No one suspects a hero cop is a corrupt cop, as one arrested officer put it. Other corrupt cops, of course, had dismal performance records: few or no arrests in high-crime precincts, poor attendance and sick leave records. They had long ago abandoned their responsibilities as police officers.The Mixed Motives Behind Corruption: A New Framework for Analyzing Corruption
We also found that the traditional idea that police corruption is motivated solely by greed, no longer fully reflects what we found on the streets of New York. While money is still the primary cause of corruption, a complex array of other motivations also spur corrupt officers: to exercise power over their environments; to vent frustration and hostility over their inability to stem the tide of crime around them; to experience excitement and thrills; to prove their mettle to other officers and gain their acceptance; and to administer their own brand of street justice because they believe the criminal justice system will administer none. Corrupt officers usually raided drug locations for profit, but sometimes also to show who was in control of the crime-ridden streets of their precincts; sometimes to feel the power and thrill of their badges and uniforms; sometimes because they believed that vigilante justice was the only way to teach a lesson or punish those who might otherwise go unpunished.
Police falsifications and perjury too result from a variety of motives. Sometimes to cover up corruption or brutality; sometimes for personal gain; and sometimes for what is erroneously perceived as legitimate law enforcement ends.
As with corruption, officers use unnecessary force for a variety of reasons. In the vast majority of instances, force is necessarily used to protect the safety of officers or citizens. Officers frequently could not carry out their responsibilities without resorting to necessary force. But we have learned through testimony and field investigations that force is also used outside the bounds of necessity: to further corruption for profit; to establish respect, exert power, and vent frustration; and to administer what they believed was street justice.
Given these mixed motivations for corruption and violence, we found it useful to analyze the patterns of corruption we uncovered in terms of three categories: corruption for profit; corruption for power; and corruption for perceived "'street" law enforcement ends. By focusing on the officers' intent, this framework helps to identify the causes and conditions that spawn particular forms of corruption -- as well as strategies to prevent them.III. PATTERNS OF CORRUPTION
The salient patterns of corruption we uncovered were strikingly similar in precincts where comparable conditions existed. Each group of corrupt officers, however, established their own distinctive corruption methods, based largely on unique precinct characteristics. In Manhattan South's 9th Precinct, for example, where there exists an abundance of street dealers, public testimony indicated that one of the most common patterns of corruption involved cops shaking down street dealers. In Brooklyn North's 75th Precinct and Manhattan North's 30th Precinct, where large-scale, cash-laden drug traffickers operate, we found the patterns of corruption were more serious and complex. To explain the complexity and range of modern police corruption, it is essential to examine each of the predominant patterns of corruption we found. These include:
SECTION 1: COPS COMMITTING THEFTThefts From Street Dealers: "Shake Downs"
Section 1: Cops Committing Theft
• from street dealers
• from radio runs
• from warrantless searches and seizures
• from legitimate raids and searches
• from car stops and drug "couriers"
• from off-duty robberies;
Section 2: Cops Protecting and Assisting Narcotics Traffickers;
Section 3: Cops as Drug Dealers and Users;
Section 4: Police Perjury and Falsifications; and
Section 5: Police Violence and Brutality.
The most common and simplest form of narcotics corruption is "shaking down" street dealers. According to a number of corrupt police officers and informants, officers would approach drug dealers operating on the streets of their precincts, force them to an alleyway, behind a building, or some other secluded location, and steal whatever drugs or money they found in their possession. If the dealer kept his drugs and money hidden somewhere nearby, some officers would threaten the dealer with arrest or with violence unless he revealed its location. Officers involved in the shakedown would sometimes split their "score" or proceeds in the patrol car or elsewhere. If drugs were stolen by the officer, they were usually concealed in a location to which the corrupt cop would return on his way home.
The size of scores from shakedowns varied depending on the dealer and the nature of the drug trade in a particular precinct. Most scores were not very large, ranging from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. Nonetheless, even a high volume of small shakedowns could substantially contribute to an officer's income. Dowd and his partner set shakedown goals of $300 to $500 a day -- and more in the holiday season -- which totaled approximately $1,500 to $2,500 a week. Scores in the heaviest narcotics precincts like the 30th Precinct, however, could bring in thousands of dollars, from the seizure of drugs and cash. One former 30th Precinct officer, for example, chased a dealer into an apartment building, and stole a bag of crack and cocaine, which he later sold to another dealer for $8,000.
Even this most simple form of narcotics corruption was not without premeditation and planning. For example, to avoid complaints, officers typically let drug dealers go free after their scores, or left them with some cash and drugs. As Dowd, Hembury, Cawley and others explained, if you left a drug dealer happy after stealing from him, he would not only be unlikely to complain, but would come to accept police shakedowns as a routine "tax" or cost of doing business. In many cases, officers would pretend to take drugs and money for vouchering as forfeited property and were doing the drug dealer a favor by letting him go unarrested. Far from considering himself the officers' victim, the dealer would then consider himself their friend. Officers could then use him to gain information about other dealers' lucrative drug locations.
These shakedowns were motivated primarily by greed -- but not entirely. Corrupt officers said they would sometimes steal ten or fifteen dollars from dealers, just to show who was boss in their precincts.
The extent of shakedowns depended largely on the kind of drug trade in the precinct and the officers' level of experience with corruption. Shakedowns were most common in precincts with a lot of street-level sales, rather than distribution of large quantities of drugs. Simply put, corruption was tied to the opportunities the local narcotics-trade presented.
We also found that corrupt cops often begin their corruption with simple shakedowns. Like Dowd and dozens of others, they then graduated to more lucrative, bold, and risky activities. Others stole from dealers only a few times in their career, without ever graduating to more serious corruption. But even this dabbling with corruption should not be ignored. Once an officer crosses the line, corruption of all types is easier to accept, justify, and protect.Thefts From Radio Runs
Calls for service or radio runs are the everyday business of patrol officers. In busy, high-crime precincts, some officers respond to twenty or more radio runs each day. These calls for service -- to the scenes of robberies, burglaries, domestic disputes, assaults, and murders -- afford the enterprising corrupt officer with numerous opportunities for gain by providing a legitimate reason for entering a premise. These opportunities are, of course, particularly abundant in high-crime drug precincts, where large amounts of cash, drugs, guns, jewelry, or other expensive property are often stashed in apartments, stores and other locations.
Police officers, especially those assigned to busy precincts, come to know their precincts extremely well, and can immediately identify a location where the opportunity for a score exists. Corrupt cops told us that they became expert at sensing corruption opportunities and would race to certain locations to search for money, drugs or other valuables before other officers arrived. Dowd, for example, testified that he and his partner would speed to what they called "rare locations", places not often the subject of radio runs -- even if it was miles outside their assigned sector -- because they were often stash houses used by drug rings, or private residences, where money or other valuables were likely to be kept.
Dowd once responded to a shooting incident at a home outside his sector because he suspected it was a well-stocked drug den. Dowd and his partner, Kenneth Eurell, were, as planned, the first to arrive at the scene. They entered the house, ignoring a corpse lying in the doorway. Dowd arranged to have other officers who had responded to the scene occupied while he searched the rooms. Inside a bedroom, Dowd found heroin and a semiautomatic weapon which he stuffed into a duffel bag. He and Eurell then left the premises passing other officers and a sergeant who never questioned them about leaving the scene of a crime with a large duffel bag. Their score from that radio run: approximately $1,200 after selling the heroin to a local drug dealer, plus a gun.
Radio runs provided yet another avenue for corruption. In the 75th Precinct, for example, corrupt officers generated their own radio runs to specific locations by calling 911 with manufactured complaints. This practice provided a cover to justify an unlawful presence or entry into a location. In another precinct, which we are not at liberty to identify, police officers' used civilian accomplices, such as drug dealers, to call 911 with false complaints about locations where cash or drugs were stored. After receiving the radio runs generated by their associates, corrupt officers had an apparent justification to enter the premises to steal the contraband.
Not all thefts from radio runs arise from the narcotics trade. Enterprising officers find -- or create -- opportunities for profit in a variety of situations ranging from stealing from the home or body of a deceased person, to stealing cash or property from a private residence. In what Dowd testified was his most embarrassing act of corruption, he responded to a radio call from a sixteen-year old girl whose home had been burgled. With theft in mind, Dowd asked her if any money had been stolen. She responded that her mother kept their savings hidden, but she did not know where. He asked her to call her mother at work to find out where she hid her cash, and offered to check it for them. The mother and daughter trustingly told Dowd where their savings -- $600 -- was hidden. He ran to "check," slipped the money into his pocket, and reported that their savings too had been stolen, failing to mention that he was the one who stole it.Theft From Unlawful Searches and Seizures: "Raids," "Doing Doors," "Booming Doors"
Corrupt officers do not often worry about having a pretext for entering apartments, stores, and other private locations. The Commission's investigation revealed that forcible, warrantless entries for the purpose of theft were at times a regular practice for on-duty officers in the precincts we examined. In groups ranging in size from two to thirteen, they would actively seek out locations where drugs and money were hidden, break in without warrants or probable cause and steal whatever drugs, money, guns, or other valuables they could find.
In the 73rd and 75th Precincts these break-ins were known as "raids," and three corrupt officers from the 73rd Precinct who agreed to cooperate with the Commission, all reported that approximately twelve to fifteen officers conducted these raids from 1986 through 1992. In the 30th Precinct this practice was known as "booming doors," and officers and drug dealers reported that a large number of officers regularly boomed doors for at least the past four years. In the 46th Precinct, the practice was known as "doing doors," and corrupt officers and drug dealers from that precinct told us that a closely knit group of twelve to fifteen officers assigned to a uniformed narcotics enforcement unit known as the Bronx Area Narcotics Drive ("B.A.N.D.") "did doors" in groups of two to six officers, almost daily -- sometimes storming eight to ten drug locations in a single tour.
The size of scores from these raids varied by precinct, reflecting differences in the nature of the drug trade in each. Scores in the 73rd and 75th Precincts ranged from several dollars to several hundred dollars. The biggest score Hembury ever made was several hundred dollars. Scores in the 46th Precinct, which had a more active and organized drug trade, ranged from several hundred to several thousand dollars -- Bernard Cawley's biggest score from a University Avenue drug den was over $32,000: $16,000 in cash, two handguns, 1-1/2 kilograms of cocaine which he sold to another officer for $16,000. In the 30th Precinct, which has one of the largest and most organized drug trades in the City, the scores were often in the several thousand dollar range. The largest "score" of which we are currently aware in that precinct: over $100,000.
But large scores were often the exception, not the rule in these precincts. As officers uniformly told us, money was not always the sole objective of these raids. In the 73rd Precinct, for example, there was not always enough money to be made to justify the risk of detection. The thrill of breaking down doors, of raiding drug dens, of shifting the balance of power from the criminals to the cops was also much of the allure of the activity. There was also a sense of justification that many corrupt cops would explain in interviews: that they were giving criminals what they deserved -- and what they believed the community really needed. Although we know that this was more of a rationalization than a true motive, this attitude did help corrupt cops justify their criminality to themselves and to each other. It also helped honest cops justify their silence.
But any such rationalization is baseless. Rather than shifting the balance of power from criminals to cops, these raids strengthen the power of drug dealers. They allow dealers to operate with immunity from the criminal justice system because cash or drugs buy their continued freedom. For the dealers, the raids and thefts became just a routine cost of doing business in an otherwise profitable precinct. In addition, these corrupt cops helped maintain the supply of drugs in the precinct by selling drugs they had stolen from one dealer back to others at low prices thereby supplying a relatively cheap source of drugs to friendly dealers for their own profit.
Despite differences in jargon and sizes of scores, the raids in Brooklyn North, Manhattan North and the South Bronx displayed strikingly similar features: they were planned and involved groups of officers who aggressively prospered from the drug trade. And in many of the precincts we examined, corrupt officers said there was an evolution to the raids.
In the 73rd and 75th Precincts, raids often began as a means to accomplishing a law enforcement end: arresting otherwise unapprehendable drug dealers who sold narcotics out of fortified locations (usually apartments, abandoned buildings, and storefronts) equipped with hiding places and escape routes meant to thwart law enforcement. At the outset, raids were haphazard and infrequent. They often took place at the end of the squad's tour so that an officer making an arrest in the course of a raid would maximize overtime payments. To justify the probable cause for the arrest, officers would falsify arrest and other records, and if the case went so far, perjure themselves before a grand jury or at trial to support the charges against the drug dealers and to escape charges against themselves.
Over time, however, the raids assumed a different purpose: to steal drugs, money, and handguns from the drug dealers. And, as their purpose changed, the raids became more frequent and highly organized.
Planning a raid in the 73rd Precinct, for example, often began right in the stationhouse or locker room while officers prepared for their tour of duty. Officers discussed plans about raids of drug locations and which of them wanted to participate. They selected locations based on their own observations of which drug spots in their sectors appeared to be doing a brisk business or on information provided by drug dealers, prostitutes, or other denizens of the neighborhood with whom they were friendly. Corrupt officers in the 30th Precinct often had their own regular group of "friendly" dealers who would provide information about rival dealers. Some 30th Precinct officers also rousted drug dealers for the keys to their apartments, often searching for keys to high security locks which indicated prize raid sites. Officers in the 46th Precinct had fewer sources -- but they utilized them to the fullest. Cawley, for example, testified about how he and his partners enlisted the assistance of a drug dealer to help them make bigger scores. After arresting the dealer on drug possession charges, they extracted an agreement from him to provide information about lucrative drug spots in return for his freedom. A profitable partnership thus began.
In one instance, the informant told Cawley and his partner about an apartment where drugs and money were hidden beneath a tile in the bedroom floor. While the informant was inside the apartment, Cawley and his partner kicked in the door, and chased everyone out except the informant. Alone in the apartment, the three found $800 in cash under a floor tile, seven ounces of cocaine, and a handgun. The officers then pretended to arrest the informant by placing handcuffs on him and putting him in their radio car so that the people in the area would not suspect him of conspiring with the police. They then drove to a nearby motel where they split the money and drugs in three equal shares. For his safety, the informant stayed at the motel for several days to give the drug dealers in the precinct the appearance that he had been jailed because of the arrest. Before he went back to his residence in the precinct, Cawley gave the informant bogus court documents to show to anyone who may have questioned the arrest.
To plan and carry out raids, officers in the 73rd Precinct arranged clandestine meetings in desolate locations within the precinct by calling each other over the Department radio on an unused frequency. To mask their communications, officers used code names to call each other and to identify the place they arranged to meet. For example, Hembury was known as "Klondike," Eurell as "Double D," and Carlucci as "Pasquale." Their meeting place was known as "The Morgue." A typical radio communication to arrange a secret meeting among these officers would be: "Double D go to ten (change frequency). Double D and Pasquale, meet Klondike at the Morgue in ten (minutes)." If supervisors were monitoring the radios -- as they should have done -- no one ever asked what that meant.
Although there was no consistent number of sector cars or officers who would join the meetings, on occasion most of the 73rd Precinct evening tour attended these secret rendezvous -- four to seven sector cars with two officers in each car. Once at the meeting place, the officers discussed their plans for a raid, selected a location and assigned themselves various roles. Some officers would be responsible for breaking through the front door -- often with Department issued hammers and crowbars -- while other officers covered the rear of the building, the roof or other escape routes. The patrol cars then approached the location in tight formation, with radios and headlights off to escape detection and gain the element of surprise over dealers inside the premises they were about to assault.
Once inside it was every officer for himself. The officers stole whatever valuables they could find in the premises or on the people inside. Drug dealers within the building were typically let free, unless one of the officers wanted to make an arrest for overtime reasons. In that case, some of the money and drugs was vouchered, or recorded as evidence, to sustain the basis for the arrest.
Officers typically divided their "booty" according to their own set of rules. An officer who stole money split it with his partner, and with other officers at the raid who knew that money was stolen. The money might be split in the precinct bathroom, locker room, or at a predetermined location where the officers stopped to meet before driving home. Two officers hid their $800 score in rubber gloves in a nearby park.
Officers disposed of stolen drugs in one of three ways. The drugs were discarded or destroyed, kept for personal use, or sold to officers who had connections with drug dealers. If the drugs were sold, the profits were divided between the officer who stole the drugs and the officer who arranged the sale.
Stolen handguns were always a prize commodity. They provided several hundred dollars if sold. While some officers sold their stolen guns -- sometimes to criminals -- most officers either threw them away or brought them home. One officer even told us that stolen guns could be used as a "throw-away" to plant on a suspect in the event of a questionable police shooting.
Raids often resulted in a good measure of violent conduct on the part of these corrupt officers. To enter locations, they broke down doors with hammers and rams; to find drugs and money, they tore open walls and floor boards. They forcibly detained and rifled through their victims' pockets and broke open safes and storage boxes. They threatened them with physical harm to get information about places and people to make even bigger scores. Sometimes, when unsuccessful in making a score, they ransacked the place.Thefts From Lawful Searches and Seizures
Corrupt police officers also have stolen contraband in connection with lawful searches and seizures. Seized items were not even safe once they were in the stationhouse. In the 30th Precinct, for example, it is alleged that some of the arrested officers once stole about $80,000 cash from a locked safe that was brought to the stationhouse for vouchering after a seizure.
This kind of corruption usually does not involve patrol officers. In March 1993, three investigators -- two Department detectives and a New York State police trooper -- assigned to the elite New York Joint Drug Enforcement Task Force ("D.E.T.F.") were arrested for their attempt to sell heroin they stole from a lawful seizure of narcotics. All three subsequently pleaded guilty to federal narcotics distribution charges. One of the convicted detectives, Jeffrey Beck, provided information to the Commission.
In the D.E.T.F. case, instead of stealing directly from drug dealers, officers stole drugs, money, jewelry and other valuables seized as evidence in the course of legitimate investigations and safeguarded within the D.E.T.F. headquarters. According to Beck and court documents, Detective Joseph Termini stole heroin from a seizure of narcotics from a large-scale drug organization. He then recruited Beck and another D.E.T.F. officer to help him sell the stolen drugs. Beck, in turn, convinced a long-standing D.E.T.F. informant to sell the heroin for $25,000. Showing more honesty than the police officers for whom he worked, the informant told the Department's Internal Affairs Bureau of the officers' criminal plans and they were arrested.
The investigation revealed that the theft and attempted sale of the stolen narcotics by police officers was part of a pattern of crime involving civilian accomplices, that included: thefts of money and other valuables from the site of search warrant locations; conspiracy to rob drug traffickers under investigation by the D.E.T.F.; and conspiracy to burgle stash houses used by drug dealers under investigation. D.E.T.P. members used their positions as police officers to gain confidential information, including information from court-authorized wiretap interceptions, and to burgle drug locations before search warrants could be executed.