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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Police Chief Denies Knowledge of Ticket Fixes

Tuffey had knowledge of sticker system
Chief: Decals meant just to ID union members
The Albany Times Union by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST AND BRENDAN J. LYONS - March 31, 2009

ALBANY, NY -- Police Chief James Tuffey acknowledged Monday that he not only knew about but initiated yellow-and-blue decals distributed by the police union he once led. But the chief told city lawmakers there was no understanding the stickers would serve as a coded message to parking enforcement officers. Tuffey's revelation under oath before a special Common Council investigative committee was the first acknowledgement by a high-ranking city official that he or she was aware of the decals. Over the last five months, Tuffey has denied knowledge of the stickers used by police union members to avoid parking tickets, but never publicly made a distinction between the older stickers issued when he was president and the new ones. Tuffey, testifying under oath, told the Common Council Monday that the blue-and-gold stickers were not used to avoid parking fines, only to show membership in the union. "I started the blue-and-gold. We bought one version of them, and then we went to lapel pins" in 1994, said Tuffey, who served as union president between 1980 and 1994 for all but 10 months. But near the end of his testimony, under questioning from council members, he said each officer received two yellow-and-blue stickers because they might have more than one car they drove to court. "Again, we were using our personal cars to go to court,'' he said.

Yet Tuffey, who left the department in 1995 and returned as chief in 2005, said he had no knowledge that the police union replaced the blue-and-yellow stickers with numbered red and blue stickers known as bull's eyes in the late 1990s. He also said that as chief he was "absolutely ... not aware'' the stickers were being used by members of his police force, and others, to receive tens of thousands of no-fine parking tickets. The former detective and union president had previously said he only first learned of those stickers when the Times Union revealed their existence in November and that, in many cases, they were being used to afford unsanctioned parking courtesies to police officers, their friends and family. Those courtesies came in the form of no-fine or warning tickets, which look like official city summonses but which carried no penalties.

Tuffey said he first learned about another privileged parking system, a special "VIP" list held in police department computers that exempted specific vehicles from fines, when he received a no-fine or "ghost" ticket in 2006 in front of City Hall. Tuffey said he later instructed a commander to add a plate to the VIP list of a person who works for the state Liquor Authority. When he joined the force in 1975, Tuffey testified, there were no parking meters, let alone no-fine parking tickets, Tuffey said officers required to testify in court often drove their own cars. But rather than rely on the stickers to dodge tickets, he said, they often put their business cards or police patches in the window a tactic that, at least in his case, often didn't even work. "If they gave (officers) a courtesy, they did. If not they took it up to the traffic division" to have the ticket adjudicated, Tuffey said. Tuffey's testimony followed that of city Treasurer Betty Barnette and two of her aides, in which Barnette staunchly repeated earlier denials that her office, which oversees parking fine collected, ever knew about the system. Barnette appeared with James Van Apeldorn, director of the Parking Violations Bureau, and Andrew Sterling, a computer specialist in the office.

"My knowledge of that system came on the morning I read it in the Times Union," said Barnette, who, along with Van Apeldorn and Sterling, appeared with attorney Brian Devane. Still unresolved is how the no-fine tickets issued by parking enforcement were apparently filtered out in police computers before they were sent to City Hall as well as who started the second, bull's-eye sticker system. Barnette said the computer system in her office would be incapable of processing a ticket that carried no violation code or fine. Current union President Christian Mesley declined the council's invitation to testify earlier this month and could still face a subpoena if lawmakers are intent on hearing from him. They are expected to discuss where their probe heads next on Wednesday night. Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at

Tuffey's remarks
  • Nov. 13: ''What bull's-eyes? ... There's no policy here on that, I can tell you, that I know about. ... If there's something out there that's been abused I'm going to deal with it,'' Tuffey told the Times Union.
  • Nov. 14: Tuffey tells the newspaper coded stickers were issued through the police officers' union. He pledges a departmental order stating the stickers are not sanctioned and suspending all ghost ticketing.
  • Nov. 15: Times Union publishes first story on ghost tickets. From the article: ''Tuffey said he was unaware of the bull's-eye stickers, which are visible on the windshields of dozens -- if not hundreds -- of cars around the city, including many vehicles parked at police headquarters.''
  • Dec. 10: Tuffey discusses origin of ghost tickets at Common Council Public Safety Committee meeting. ''I stopped it as soon as I found it out, as soon as it was brought to my attention,'' Tuffey said. ''The union did it. The union gave it out. ... The people are all gone and that's what I'm trying to reach back to some of those people to find out how it actually started. ... I'm going back and trying to talk to an official who may have knowledge of this.''
  • Dec. 10: During post-meeting interview Times Union reporter Cathleen Crowley asks Tuffey how long the system has been in place. ''Fifteen or 20 years,'' Tuffey said. ''And you hadn't heard of it before this?'' Crowley asked. ''The bullets? No,'' Tuffey responded. ''I've been gone. I was gone. Did you know that?''
  • Dec. 12: Times Union reports Tuffey said he had ''nothing to do with'' the bull's-eye stickers, which many officers call ''bullets.'' ''When I came back here I knew nothing about these tickets being issued,'' Tuffey said. ''I got them on my car ... but that's the chief's car. I didn't know that they issued thousands of these.''
  • Feb. 6: Times Union reports ''Police Chief James W. Tuffey and Mayor Jerry Jennings both said they were unaware that cars with the bull's-eye stickers had been receiving free parking tickets dating to the early 1990s.''
  • Monday: Tuffey said he was aware of the original blue-and-yellow stickers used by the union when he was president but unaware that numbered red-and-blue stickers had been used since the late 1990s by officers and others to avoid parking fines.

Bull's-eye points

Chief James W. Tuffey said he was president of the union when these yellow-and-blue bull's-eye stickers were given to city police officers, who used them to attend court. Tuffey said he had no knowledge as police chief that the numbered stickers were being used by officers to avoid parking fines. These stickers were issued by the police union.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cops Woes Grow

Schenectady's cop woes grow by 1
Officer faces charges in incident involving girlfriend's car
The Albany Times Union by DAVID FILKINS - March 29, 2009

SCHENECTADY, NEW YORK - One day after Mayor Brian U. Stratton was blasted for proposing the trouble-plagued city police department be replaced by a county agency, a city patrolman was taken into custody for allegedly taking his girlfriend's car without her permission. When Patrolman Kyle Hunter was charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle Friday night, he joined a long list of Electric City officers on the wrong end of the law. More than a dozen police officials have been arrested and served jail time for various charges in recent years, including giving drugs to an informant, driving while intoxicated and sleeping on the job. County officials and others slammed Stratton's proposal Thursday, calling it unrealistic and unnecessary. As much as Stratton dislikes another city officer getting cuffed and booked, he knows it strengthens his claim that a seismic overhaul is warranted. "It's all the more reason why we have to look at what we're looking at," he said. "We need to bring the hammer down." Police said the most recent incident began at 5:45 p.m. Friday when Hunter, an eight-year veteran, and his girlfriend, a correction officer, started arguing. Hunter allegedly said he was going to take her car, and did so even after she told him not to. When she reached Hunter by phone and demanded he return the car, he cursed at her and refused, police said. She called police, who told officers to be on the lookout for Hunter. He eventually returned the car and was taken into custody around 11:45 p.m.

Chief Mark Chaires said Hunter already was under internal investigation for alleged abuse of extended sick leave and other violations. He also once lost his service weapon and "took his sweet time informing us that he'd lost something that could kill someone," Chaires said. "They found it in a Dumpster or something like that," Stratton said. Hunter could not be reached for comment. He has been suspended for 30 days without pay, though his unpaid leave could become permanent. "He's in line to be terminated," Chaires said. "No question about that. He will not be here." The chief extended that message to any officer found guilty of wrongdoing. "We're cleaning house," Chaires said. "Unfortunately and fortunately, these guys are basically turning themselves in, self-identifying themselves as having their head and heart in the wrong place. They clearly don't want to be here." Reach Filkins at 454-5456 or

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Entire Narcotics Unit Named in Pay Scam

Entire narcotics unit in McKeesport named in pay scam
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Moriah Balingit - March 19, 2009

Seven McKeesport police officers suspended after city officials said they bilked the city of unearned overtime pay included two lieutenants and all four members of the department's narcotics unit. Two weeks ago, after Chief Joe Pero said he discovered that the officers were billing the city for court appearances they never made, the seven were suspended without pay. Officials declined to identify the officers involved, but sources familiar with the investigation said the group suspended included the lieutnenant and three detectives who constituted the narcotics unit, in addition to another detective, another lieutenant and a patrolman. All were reassigned. The four in the narcotics squad also were members of the District Attorney's Narcotics Enforcement Team, a county-wide task force that includes members of local police departments and investigators from the district attorney's office. Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, confirmed that some of the suspended officers had connections to DANET. "While we don't anticipate any problems with cases they have been on, we will be reviewing all of those cases to make sure there are no problems," he said in an e-mail.

Last week, the Allegheny County district attorney's office recommended that McKeesport audit cases involving the men going back to January 2008, to make sure all incidents of misappropriation are caught. Mayor Jim Brewster said last week that he had elected to use a private firm for the audit. Meanwhile, some public and elected officials expressed frustration that they were kept out of the loop of what was going on in the department. A few said they learned of the situation from media reports or when they were contacted by reporters. "I think that's poor communication flow, not keeping your council informed," said Councilman Paul Shelly Jr. "I wish the entire council and the [city] controller [Ray Malinchak] had been kept abreast as soon ... as the chief thought he had found something." Mr. Shelly was hesitant to comment further because he said he didn't know enough about what had happened. But he said he was pleased that the chief and the mayor moved quickly to rectify the situation. On Tuesday, Mr. Shelly sent a letter to council members and other city officials requesting a special meeting to discuss the issue. He said he hoped he would learn more then.

Mr. Malinchak said he had received no correspondence from the mayor or the police chief regarding the situation, and was highly skeptical of the mayor's claim that the city had not lost any money in the scheme. Last week, Mayor Brewster said the city was able to recover the money paid in unearned overtime because the men were suspended without pay. Mr. Malinchak said he wanted evidence that the officers actually paid the money back, and that suspending them without pay was not punishment enough. "If someone down at the city thinks they have the authority ... to negotiate another settlement, then I have a problem with that," he said. Councilman Dale McCall said he thought it was proper that the mayor and the chief handled the situation without council's oversight, noting that the police department is officially overseen by the mayor. "I give them a lot of credit for taking the bull by the horns and taking care of that," he said. Ultimately, he said that he trusted Mayor Brewster and Chief Pero to handle the situation wisely. Moriah Balingit can be reached at or 412-263-2533.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Governor Candidate Took Donation From Monitor

NJ governor candidate took donation from monitor
Newsday by ANGELA DELLI SANTI - March 26, 2009

TRENTON, N.J. - A former federal prosecutor running for New Jersey governor accepted campaign contributions from a lawyer he awarded a no-bid, multimillion-dollar contract to while serving as U.S. attorney, according to state election records.  Former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie took $23,800 in donations this year from principals of Stern & Kilcullen of Roseland and their spouses, according to Election Law Enforcement Commission records. The contributions were matched 2-to-1 through public financing, bringing the total donation to $71,400.

As U.S. attorney, Christie named Herbert Stern to oversee operations of the University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ) in 2005 rather than prosecute the school on Medicare fraud charges. Stern and his wife Marcia each contributed the maximum allowed _ $3,400.  Stern, a former federal judge, was paid about $3 million for two years' work as a federal monitor.  Bill Palatucci, Christie's one-time law partner and a volunteer campaign fundraiser, said Thursday there's nothing inappropriate about accepting donations from longtime friends and colleagues. Christie's campaign referred questions to Palatucci.  Palatucci said there are no plans to return the money despite calls from Democratic Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck to give it back.  "There's no reason to," said Palatucci.  Stern did not return a message for comment.  As monitor, Stern oversaw day-to-day operations and the school's $1.6 billion budget.  The university agreed to the oversight rather than face criminal prosecution that would have cut off federal funding and closed its hospital. Authorities imposed the monitoring after discovering that UMDNJ double-billed for services covered by Medicare.

New Jersey's pay-to-play law prohibits contributions of more than $300 from anyone who receives a state contract of more than $17,500. The contract for Stern was awarded by the federal government, so state laws do not apply.  Christie, 46, built a reputation as a corruption-busting federal prosecutor during seven years as U.S. attorney appointed by George W. Bush. As a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, he pledged a campaign in which he would disclose the name of every donor. Campaign finance laws require listing only those who give more than $300.  Palatucci said there's no conflict with the donations _ from the Sterns, John Inglesino and Kevin Kilcullen and their wives _ because federal monitors are chosen by the company trying to avoid prosecution, not by the U.S. attorney.  However, Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat who has introduced federal legislation increasing oversight of the agreements between U.S. attorneys and companies accused of wrongdoing, said Christie held all the cards in the case.

"The prosecutor has total control of the situation," said Pallone. "He tells the firm who to pick, he strong-arms them and he announces who the person is. They don't really have a choice."  Pallone raised concerns about Christie's use of the deferred persecution agreements after discovering that the federal prosecutor picked his old boss, former U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft, as a federal monitor in a no-bid deal worth $28 million to $52 million.  "This was the concern we've had all along," said Pallone. "He chooses his friends to be the monitors with the idea he would run for governor and go back to his political friends to raise money for his campaign."  Christie, of the Morris County town of Mendham, faces conservative Steve Lonegan in ta June Republican primary. The winner will challenge Gov. Jon S. Corzine in November.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Detective indicted on DWI charge

Detective indicted on DWI charge
The Albany Times Union by CAROL DeMARE - March 26, 2009, Staff writer

ALBANY, NEW YORK - Veteran police detective George McNally has been indicted on drunken-driving and reckless-driving charges stemming from a January incident in which he allegedly was involved in an off-duty hit-and-run accident. McNally, 54, who is on paid suspension, was arrested the night of Jan. 11 at his Delmar home by detectives with the department's Office of Professional Standards. McNally allegedly refused to take an alcohol breath test. District Attorney David Soares took the case to a grand jury, which handed up a five-count indictment on Tuesday, district attorney spokeswoman Heather Orth said. The detective, who has 28 years on the job, is charged with three misdemeanors. Lesser charges, such as misdemeanors, are typically handled in City Court. However, cases that are presented to a grand jury go to County Court.

Albany attorney Stephen Coffey said Wednesday his client "was not drunk ... was not intoxicated." "It was an unfortunate incident," Coffey said. "There've been miscues in the investigation of this case from the very beginning and assumptions and impressions that people have made that are unwarranted. And we intend to vigorously contest the charges." The misdemeanor DWI charge alleges that at about 9:17 p.m. Jan. 11, McNally operated his 2003 red Chevrolet Silverado pickup while intoxicated. The misdemeanor counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and reckless driving allege he drove onto oncoming lanes of traffic at an imprudent speed, almost hitting other vehicles head-on and crashing into a parked vehicle. The indictment alleges in the fourth count of leaving the scene of an incident without reporting it, a violation, that property damage accident occurred on New Scotland Avenue. The police report said it was on New Scotland near Sycamore Street. It is alleged that McNally's truck caused damage to a 2007 Volkswagen and he left the scene without reporting it to police.

The owner of the Volkswagen, hearing a crash, ran outside and took down the plates of McNally's truck, the police report said. The final count, refusing to take a breath test, is a traffic infraction. After a state Department of Motor Vehicles hearing in January, an administrative law judge ruled that city police failed to properly inform McNally of his rights on a drunken-driving charge, which enabled him to avoid a yearlong loss of his license for refusing to take a breath test. The indictment doesn't mention witnesses, but the Times Union reported that an off-duty Schenectady police officer tailed the pickup truck, calling 911 and saying the motorist was driving erratically and careened into a snowbank on New Scotland. Christian Mesley, president of the Albany Police Officers Union, who went to McNally's home before internal affairs detectives arrived to arrest him, declined comment, leaving it to McNally's attorneys. McNally is to be arraigned Friday. Reach DeMare at 454-5431 or

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mayor Considers Martial Law Over Police Corruption

Schenectady mayor considers options, martial law over police woes
Capital News 9 by Steve Ference - March 19, 2009

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Schenectady Police Chief Mark Chaires said, "This is unprecedented - all these officers getting in trouble at the same time for all these different reasons. Five Schenectady police officers recently accused of everything from driving drunk to beating up a man are leading city officials to look at taking drastic action to fix a department tainted by the few who may have acted illegally, like Darren Lawrence and Michael Brown who are accused of driving while intoxicated. Chief Chaires said, "Those two officers, we're definitely going to seek termination, and we're not ruling it out with any of the officers who are out there. Police Chief Mark Chaires told us you basically have to fire yourself - essentially a million dollar fine in lost benefits over a lifetime. Still, Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton said, "We believe there are five officers now who could face possible termination." But it's not just the threat of termination. Mayor Stratton told us he's looking at all options, including disbanding the police department - basically starting over. "It's something we're certainly looking into. I think the public has had it up to here," said the mayor. Currently, officials are reviewing the legal options and planning to present a full report in early April - options like a consolidated county-wide police force or bringing in the State Police.

The mayor said there is another option - and that would be declaring martial law. The governor would have to declare it and then the National Guard would come in. The mayor said it's more for a transition to a new police force if that were to happen. He said, "It may be that as a stopgap measure, that you would need military forces - State Police, National Guard." Mayor Stratton said the temporary measure would last until the new police force took over. Schenectady's Corporation Counsel John Van Norden said, "If you abolish the police department you still have a need - not an obligation - but a need to police the community. You would need something in transition. Declaring martial law would be one way to bridge the gap." "It's a contrived scenario," said the mayor. "But it's not beyond the realm of possibilities if you go that particular route." Chief Chaires said, "When I think of martial law, I think of rioting. I think of Watts riots and things like that. I haven't seen anything that rises to that level. I was a little surprised to hear that." But whether the National Guard needs to be called in or not, we'll take a more-in-depth look on Thursday at the county-wide and State Police options, as officials try to deal with an unprecedented situation in unprecedented ways.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stalking Cops

Wigged-out court officer and ex-cop Christopher Ofee nabbed in stalking
The New York Daily News by ALISON GENDAR AND NICOLE BODE  - March 18, 2009

Celebrity Stalking Victims

A Queens Criminal Court officer and former cop relentlessly stalked a young stranger for a year, officials charge. Christopher Ofee approached his victim a half-dozen times in a bizarre ritual - donning wigs to disguise himself and repeatedly asking her the same question about a bus route, authorities said Tuesday. Ofee, 43, was nabbed about 10:30 a.m. Sunday near an isolated Queens bus stop after the woman called cops when he walked up to her. She said that after the ex-cop walked up to her, he got back in his car and drove back and forth, staring at her as she waited for the bus at 81st St. near Ditmars Blvd., according to the arrest report. When police arrived, Ofee tried to flee by driving across the street. He then emerged from his car with his pants unzipped, according to the arrest report. The 30-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld by the Daily News, told cops it was the sixth time Ofee had approached her in the past year to ask about the bus route. She said she had no other dealings with him. Police found multiple wigs in his car, which he wore to conceal his identity from his victim, police sources said. Ofee, who works at the court in Kew Gardens, was given a desk appearance ticket at the 114th Precinct stationhouse and released. He is charged with misdemeanor stalking and harassment, a violation. "This is very upsetting," Ofee's 71-year-old mother, Virginia, said at the family'sWoodside home Tuesday. "He's a straight guy." Ofee did not return home and could not be reached for comment. His alleged victim declined to comment. Ofee, who has been a court officer since 2005, is taking vacation leave and has been stripped of his weapon, said Office of Court Administration spokesman David Bookstaver. Upon his return, Ofee will be placed on modified assignment, barring him from carrying a gun, Bookstaver said. Ofee was an NYPD officer from 1995 until his resignation in 2001, police said. It was unclear why he left the force.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dirty Ex-Cop "Accidentally" Killed

Dirty ex-cop Jerry Bowens: I 'accidentally' killed girlfriend Catherine Donofrio
The New York Daily News by Scott Shifrel - March 20, 2009

A jealous dirty ex-cop claimed he was "in a trance" and on the verge of suicide when he "accidentally" killed his girlfriend and wounded her best friend, it was revealed Friday. The chilling, self-serving statement was released as Jerry Bowens was arraigned on murder and other charges in the March 8 shooting of gal pal Catherine Donofrio and Melissa Simmons. "When I lifted up the gun, it accidentally went off, striking Catherine in the head," Jerry Bowens told investigators after he was arrested. "Melissa swung her hand and the gun went off again, striking me in the left forearm," he told cops. "I don't remember anything after that except that I began shooting into the bathroom and then ran out of the apartment," he said. When he called cops to surrender hours later, he said: "It's Jerry Bowens ... I'm the one who shot the two girls. Are they all right?" Bowens had nothing to say Friday as his pajama-clad image was beamed into a Brooklyn courtroom from the Bellevue psychiatric ward.

Lawyer Wayne Bodden pleaded not guilty for Bowens and requested a mental examination for his client. Bowens' previous lawyer, Edward Mandery, was taken off the case after prosecutors said he was on a death list Bowens kept. When Donofrio was killed, Mandery had been representing Bowens in a drug scandal involving four other Brooklyn narcotics cops. Bowens pleaded guilty, was kicked off the force and was set to testify against his former colleagues when he went into a jealous rage at Simmons' apartment, cops said. "We had an argument regarding where she had spent the night," Bowens told police, according to the statement. "I threatened to kill myself and pulled out my gun and cocked the hammer and placed it on my side." Bowens said he accidentally shot both women and fled. "I remember seeing Melissa outside screaming about someone being shot in the building, but I didn't know who she was talking about," he said. Simmons miraculously survived despite being shot in the head. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Walsh ordered a psychiatric exam to see whether Bowens is mentally fit to stand trial.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rape Cop Caught on Tape

EXCLUSIVE -The New York Post by BRAD HAMILTON and REUVEN BLAU - March 15, 2009

The on-duty cop accused of raping a drunken executive apologized for forcing himself on her, according to a secret tape-recording the woman made shortly after the alleged assault, police sources said. Investigators wired the brown-haired beauty and asked her to meet with Ninth Precinct patrolman Kenneth Moreno following the alleged attack on Dec. 7, Internal Affairs sources told The Post. The plucky victim agreed and got the cop on audio tape. Moreno apologized and conceded that the victim was very drunk on the night of the incident, according to multiple sources familiar with the recording. Under law, an incapacitated person is not legally considered able to give consent to sex. Meanwhile, prosecutors appear to be reluctant to offer a deal to Moreno's partner, Franklin Mata, who allegedly stood by while Moreno had sex with the woman. Mata offered to testify against Moreno after initially claiming the sex was consensual, but investigators have been working to tighten the case against Mata and are now leaning toward charging him as well, sources said. The woman's accusation is being probed by Internal Affairs and the Manhattan DA's Office Sex Crimes Unit.

Prosecutors expect to present their case to a grand jury in April. Internal Affairs detectives have reconstructed the woman's every move before and after the alleged assault. She and a group of female execs began drinking heavily at the music venue Southpaw in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight on Dec. 6. Staff members at the club said detectives turned up the next day and showed around a photograph of a woman in her late 20s. "She had brown hair and she was very pretty," said one of the club's owners. "Unfortunately, none of our staff could remember her. There were 400 people here that night." The club has no surveillance cameras, and the woman's name did not appear on a guest list or credit-card receipts. By 12:30 a.m., the victim had become intoxicated, and pals put her in a cab. When the cabby arrived at her East Village home, he called 911 and Moreno and Mata responded. They helped her up to the apartment and, according to the woman and security video at the building, left and came back. When they returned a second time, they attempted to shield their faces from one of the cameras. That's when Moreno sexually assaulted the woman, she claims.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Police behaving badly cost city a staggering $35 million

Police behaving badly cost city a staggering $35 million
The New York Daily News by KATHLEEN LUCADAMO - March 13, 2009

Controversial cop tactics - including excessive force and false arrests - are costing taxpayers a bundle. The city shelled out $35.2 million last year in settlements over charges of improper police action, up 40% over the previous year, a report out Thursday from city Controller William Thompson shows. And that figure isn't likely to fall anytime soon: The number of people who planned to sue the NYPD hit an all-time high last year. "These are remarkable increases. They raise serious questions as to whether the NYPD is out of control," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. The number of notices of claim filed against the NYPD - the first step in a lawsuit - has climbed 22% in the past 10 years, hitting a historic high of 6,274 last year, the report found. Lieberman blames aggressive stop-and-frisk practices for the rise, but a police source said many claims are for property cases, like a squad car damaging another vehicle. Still, the NYPD's payout increases outweighed those of other city agencies. The city paid $567.9 million in settlements and judgments last year, an increase of less than 2% from 2007, according to Thompson's report.

But total payouts for the NYPD soared 11% to $102.8 million during the same period. The NYPD and the city Law Department declined to comment on the boost in payouts and claims, saying they have not reviewed the controller's report. But most victims and their lawyers weren't satisfied with their sum. "I wanted to be compensated because I served time in prison, but I feel like more should have been done to correct the officers' behavior," said Jeffrey Cofield, who got $400,000 from the city last year after spending eight months in jail on false drug possession charges. "At the end of the day, the city paid for their mistake, not the officers," he said. Marshall Nuñez of Brooklyn won the largest police action settlement last year, collecting $1.25 million for a false rape arrest. DNA proved the learning-disabled man was innocent. "I only wish it was bigger," said his lawyer Michael Rubin. "I think there are a lot more innocent people in jail than we think and a lot more confessions that are not as willful as we think."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cop Admits Cocaine Use

Albany cop admits cocaine use
The Albany Times Union by CAROL DeMARE - March 13, 2009

ALBANY, NEW YORK -  A city police officer who was fired last week admitted to authorities he showed up for work after smoking pot and used cocaine at a bar during a Super Bowl party two days earlier, according to an arbitrator's report. The admissions by Thomas Towsley, 49, whose 12-year career ended March 5 when he was fired by Chief James Tuffey, are detailed in a 23-page report by arbitrator Sheila S. Cole. Tuffey made the report available. Two officers who were on the same shift as Towsley at Center Station testified at a hearing they smelled marijuana emanating from Towsley during roll call on Feb. 5, 2008. One of the officers informed a sergeant of the incident. The next day, he was suspended after being interviewed by internal affairs detectives and admitting he had used marijuana before reporting for work that day and also that he had smoked pot occasionally for five years, Cole said in her report.

Towsley told internal affairs officers that during the 2008 Super Bowl on Feb. 3, he used cocaine while at Graney's Bar, a popular spot for off-duty cops and politicians. The arbitrator ruled that termination was an acceptable penalty. "You failed to keep your private life untarnished and failed to obey the laws of the country, state, city and department." Albany attorney David Ehrlich, who represents Towsley, said, "My client and I disagree with the content of the arbitrator's decision, and he continues to look at all his options as to how to proceed." The report notes that police Commander Daniel Colonno described Towsley "as an informal leader in his squad and one of the more seasoned and level-headed officers. He is an officer supervisors went to when they needed something done with a level of expertise." The circumstances surrounding the cocaine use drew questions from the arbitrator. The officer said he went into the men's room, noticed a pile of white powder on the sink, dipped his finger in the powder and tasted it, then rubbed some on his teeth and gums.

That testimony "was so unbelievable as to be absurd," Cole wrote. She suggested, "This story conveniently places no responsibility on Towsley for obtaining the controlled substance and relieves him of the responsibility of being questioned about his source." Dr. Warren Silverman of Access Health, who analyzed Towsley's urine test results of Feb. 6, 2008, provided by LabCorp, said the officer's positive readings for marijuana and cocaine "were unusually high." Marijuana, the doctor said, may remain in the body for a month. But cocaine is water soluble and quickly excreted. Towsley's high levels of the narcotic were inconsistent with his assertion that the last time he ingested it was Feb. 3, the doctor said. Towsley completed a drug and alcohol rehab program at St. Peter's Hospital, but the arbitrator noted he admitted himself only after he was suspended. Carol DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by e-mail at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Idiot 'Loss-Prevention Officer' Offers Freedom for Naked Show

Teens: Security took topless photos
The Olympian by Jeremy Pawloski - March 5, 2009

Olympia, Washington - A loss-prevention officer at the J.C. Penney store at the Capital Mall was in jail Wednesday after two girls, ages 17 and 18, accused him of coercing them into exposing their breasts and soliciting them for sex after they were caught shoplifting. The girls said Michael Anthony Olivas, 35, told them that if they took off their clothes, he wouldn't call police about the shoplifting. They said he then took their photos with his cell-phone camera while they were undressed. Olympia Police Lt. Jim Costa said Olivas' cell phone is being processed for evidence at the State Patrol Crime Lab. Olivas was being held Wednesday at the Thurston County Jail with bail set at $10,000 after Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor found probable cause to order him held on suspicion of one count of unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation. Costa said that Olympia police have no record of Olivas taking the girls into custody after the alleged shoplifting of clothing at the J.C. Penney around Feb. 22. "We do not have a record that he notified our police department that he had people in custody," Costa said. Olivas did generate internal reports about the alleged shoplifting. OPD has seized computer equipment from the home in Shelton where Olivas lives with his wife and child. Olivas said in court Wednesday that he is unemployed. A J.C. Penney store manager could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to court records:

The girls initially reported to Shelton police that Olivas took them into custody for shoplifting and "threatened and pretended to call the police." "Olivas took their cell phones and looked through them for 'dirty pictures' and asked them questions about their boyfriends," court papers state. "Olivas coerced them into exposing their nude breasts and semi-clothed groin/buttocks areas to him so he could take pictures with his cell phone to avoid going to jail." The girls said "they were held by Olivas from 4 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. when they were released." The girls reported the incident to Shelton police Feb. 24, after the 18-year-old told her boyfriend about the incident. The boyfriend "happens to be" a cousin of Olivas', and he confronted Olivas about the incident. The boyfriend alleges "Olivas admitted to talking (the girl) into exposing her breasts and had solicited her for sex to keep her out of trouble."

When Olympia Police detective Jeff Herbig arrested Olivas at work at J.C. Penney on Tuesday, "Olivas admitted to apprehending the victims for shoplifting and admitted to holding them in the security office for over three hours." He also admitted to looking through the girls' cell phones and asking them questions about their private lives. "Olivas admitted that he led the victims to believe they were going to jail and that the incident was serious. Olivas admitted to taking clothed photos of the victims with his cell phone for his loss-prevention report but denied taking any nude or semi-nude photos of the victims." Olivas told Herbig that "both victims exposed their breasts to him and that they did so voluntarily to avoid getting in trouble." Olivas also said "he might have joked with the victims about taking their pictures when they exposed their breast." Olivas told officers he was formerly a law enforcement officer in El Paso, Texas. Costa said that it appears that the victims shoplifted clothing items from the J.C. Penney on the date that they were detained by Olivas. Unlawful imprisonment is a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If an unlawful imprisonment is found to be sexually motivated, a defendant can face additional prison time. Jeremy Pawloski covers public safety for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5465 or

Tarnishing the badge

Tarnishing the badge
A decade of trouble for Schenectady police
The Albany Times Union by PAUL NELSON - February 19, 2009

SCHENECTADY, NY — Two mayors, three police chiefs and two public safety commissioners have all tried to tame the troubled Schenectady Police Department over the past decade. But regardless of who is in charge, there always seems to be one lowly common denominator: Schenectady cops being arrested, suspended and forced to resign. It's those chronic symptoms that prompted Mayor Brian U. Stratton to hire former State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett as his Public Safety Commissioner and later Police Chief Mark Chaires to burnish the department's image.

Both expressed dismay Wednesday over allegations Officer Dwayne Johnson – who last year took home nearly $170,000 by racking up a prodigious number of overtime hours – may have shirked his duties by spending several hours on consecutive Tuesday mornings inside a Woodlawn apartment when he should have been on patrol. "He was high-profile as the high wage-earner, and now he's high-profile because he's apparently ripping us off," said Stratton.  City Councilman Gary McCarthy said he is just fed up with bad news about officers' behavior. "I'd like to go one week where we don't have a negative newspaper article about the department," said McCarthy, chairman of the panel's public safety committee. "It's just baffling that it just keeps happening. It's human nature that people are going to make mistakes, but this just seems so institutionalized." He faults what he described as poor management for the seemingly endless litany of problems that have rocked the 166-member department over the years. Fellow city councilman Joseph Allen blames the powerful police union. "These guys, because they are a part of the union, think they can do anything,'' he said. Police Benevolent Association President Lt. Robert Hamilton did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

While Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney refused to speculate on what criminal charges his office might pursue, Commissioner Bennett said disciplinary action could range from a written discipline to termination. But the allegations against Johnson pale in comparison to charges other Schenectady officers have faced since 1999. Four cops – Lt. Michael F. Hamilton Jr. and officers Nicola Messere, Michael Siler and Richard Barnett – served prison time earlier this decade on federal corruption convictions. Another officer, Kenneth Hill, went to state prison for giving a gun to a drug dealer. Investigator Jeffrey Curtis is serving a prison sentence for stealing cocaine from the vice squad. Another vice squad investigator, Chris Maher, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was demoted to the road patrol in connection with allegations he told a friend about an ongoing State Police investigation of gambling.

Earlier this month, ex-Chief Gregory T. Kaczmarek began serving a two-year state prison sentence for his role in a narcotics distribution ring. More recently, Officer John Lewis, whom the city has taken steps to fire, has been charged with harassing his former wife, driving while drunk and then getting into a fight with his brother who also is a cop. He is out on unpaid leave while Officer Sherri Barnes and Sgt. Joseph A. Peters IV are being paid while they are off the job pending separate internal probes. She is suspected of abusing prescription drugs and he faces drunken-driving charges. Three other officers, cleared of charges related to a police brutality case, recently returned to work after being suspended with pay. Two other Schenectady cops, however, also face the prospect of losing their jobs for their role in that same case. Darren Lawrence faces charges in Colonie for allegedly leaving the scene of a 2006 accident after crashing a car on the Northway and fighting with his passenger over whether to report the crash. He is awaiting trial. Finally, Officer Ronald Pedersen was forced to resign in 2002 after a prostitute alleged that he brutalized her.

And the controversy isn't limited to the past decade. In years past, a Schenectady cop was arrested for breaking into cars behind Proctors, and another officer served six years for raping a woman being held in the police station cellblock. Two mayors, Albert P. Jurczynski and his successor, Stratton, have made attempts to reform the department. In efforts to change the culture of the department, Jurczynski in 2003 hired Syracuse police commander Daniel Boyle as public safety commissioner, and Stratton filled the position several years later with retired State Police Superintendent Bennett. Kaczmarek led the department when the FBI in 1999 launched a probe that led to the convictions of Hamilton, Messere, Siler and Barnett. He was followed in 2002 by Michael Geraci, a deputy chief from Colonie, and now Chaires, a former assistant chief. As part of the investigation into Johnson's on-duty whereabouts, officials will review radio transmissions and GPS records, and Stratton said he has ordered the department's Office of Professional Standards to look into if police commanders or the dispatcher were complicit. The department will also begin requiring that dispatchers to check with patrols every 15 minutes. Johnson was scheduled to work his regular midnight-to-8 a.m. shift. He could not be reached for comment.

Paul Nelson can be reached at 454-5347 or by e-mail at
  • Officer Richard Barnett served 15 months in federal prison after admitting in 2000 that he gave crack cocaine to an informant. (Times Union archive)
  • Officer Kenneth Hill served nearly two years in state prison after admitting he gave a gun to a drug dealer in 2004. (Times Union archive)
  • Ex-Chief Gregory T. Kaczmarek is currently serving two years in state prison for a 2008 drug conviction. (Times Union archive)
  • Schenectady police Officer John Lewis faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly drunk driving, stalking his ex-wife, and damaging property. (Times Union archive)
  • Officer Darren Lawrence faces charges in Colonie for allegedly leaving the scene of a 2006 accident after crashing a car on the Northway and fighting with his passenger over whether to report what happened. (Times Union archive)
  • Lt. Michael F. Hamilton Jr. served a four-year federal prison sentence after a jury in 2002 convicted him of tipping off a target of a drug investigation. (Times Union archive)
  • Officer Nicola Messere served a two-year federal prison sentence after a jury in 2002 convicted him of giving drugs to an informant. (Times Union archive)
  • Investigator Jeffrey Curtis is serving a four-year sentence in state prison after admitting he stole cocaine from the vice squad to feed his drug habit. (Times Union archive)
  • Officer Michael Siler was sentenced to two years in federal prison after admitting he gave drugs to an informant. (Times Union archives)
  • Officer Dwayne Johnson is under investigation for spending time inside a Schenectady apartment while he was supposed to be on patrol. (Times Union archive)
  • Officer Ronald Pedersen resigned from the Police Department in 2002 after allegations he roughed up a prostitute. (Times Union archive)
  • Not pictured: Vice Squad Investigator Christopher Maher pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with allegations he tipped off friend about a State Police gambling investigation. (Not pictured)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Serpico on Today's Corruption

March, 2009, Frank Serpico, "...The system has not changed. Somehow, we keep electing these ego-driven, capitalist, greedy people to office." Frank Serpico is the man who inspired the 1973 Al Pacino film "Serpico" about corruption and intimidation in the New York City Police Department. "We can't just stand by and let them run us into the poorhouse. The government, people have to realize, is the most corrupt in the world. If you're gonna quote me on anything, that should be it. Why do people refuse to believe that the people we entrust with our nation's safety are not all trustworthy people?"

Experts: Morris arrest fits patterns
The Northwest Florida Daily News by Andrew Gant - March 7, 2009

Charlie Morris isn't the first Okaloosa sheriff to be suspended. In Florida, some people say he won't be the last. "The arrogance is definitely out there. If I think everyone loves me, and I'm a great sheriff and I want to skim, it's not a hard thing to do," said Darren Freeman, an ex-police lieutenant commander in Haines City, at the center of Florida. But "when something like this hits, it makes the other sheriffs and administrators tighten up a little bit. "It's like getting a traffic ticket. For the first couple weeks, you slow down."

Morris last week became the second sheriff to be suspended in Okaloosa County. He joined H. Isle Enzor, who was punished along with two constables for lax enforcement of gambling laws in 1950. Enzor was re-elected three years later. But on Monday, Morris will have his first scheduled court appearance in Pensacola on federal charges of fraud, theft and money laundering. The FBI and IRS complaint against him lists five confidential witnesses. Some in the agency received tens of thousands of dollars in direct-deposit "bonuses" from the sheriff - and returned most of the money in cash. Morris hasn't said much about his charges, and he could face more at the state level. What he may have done with any kickback money - and who in his employ knew about it - is under investigation. In response, one famous retired cop said simply, "The system has not changed." "Somehow, we keep electing these ego-driven, capitalist, greedy people to office," said Frank Serpico, the man who inspired the 1973 Al Pacino film "Serpico" about corruption and intimidation in the New York City Police Department. "We can't just stand by and let them run us into the poorhouse. "The government, people have to realize, is the most corrupt in the world." Serpico, famous today for the film and for his testimony against the NYPD, did not mince words on Morris.

"If you're gonna quote me on anything, that should be it. Why do people refuse to believe that the people we entrust with our nation's safety are not all trustworthy people?" he said in a telephone interview from his home in New York state. "That is what causes us to fall in the same pit again." Interim Sheriff Ed Spooner has thanked local residents for treating his deputies with respect despite the scandal. But rumors trail Morris and some of his former staff.  Two employees, including Morris' chief of staff, Sabra Thornton, have had their positions eliminated. Thornton has not been implicated in any wrong-doing.

Freeman, meanwhile, actually could be Morris' ally. He is director of the Florida Law Enforcement and Correctional Officer Association (FLECA), a consulting firm for lawmen facing criminal or administrative investigations. FLECA provides free "expert witness testimony" and written reports for association members on trial. Although it typically helps officers below the rank of lieutenant, "if he (Morris) applied to us, I wouldn't turn him away," Freeman said. But "it sounds like he's got serious problems." Frequent bonuses are "not at all" common in law enforcement agencies, especially if they're awarded on short notice and outside of the budget, Freeman said. When they are, the sheriff needs help. And during an investigation, the helpers are questioned.

"If she's put in a spot, she's gonna sing," Freeman said of Morris' finance director, Terry Adams, who was arrested at the Sheriff's Office, the same day as Morris, on the same federal charges. "If there's a good documentation trail, he's got a serious problem." So far, for reporters, most trails have led to the same place: the "ongoing investigation" blocking access to payroll records, personnel files and information as to who was involved.  The changes in staff provoked more questions. "Oftentimes, embezzlers get into what they consider to be a non-sharable problem," said Richard Hollinger, a criminology professor at the University of Florida whose research includes white-collar crime and deviance in the workplace. "Non-sharable in the sense that they've got to figure a way out - they can't go to a bank, can't go to their family, can't go to their wife. It's just something they've got to solve themselves."

Hollinger said embezzlers typically fall into categories: absconders, who take the money and run, and borrowers, who claim they plan to pay it back. "And then there's sort of a third category of people who have personal problems, and that group may be what we're dealing with with the sheriff," Hollinger said. At his home in Shalimar on the night after his arrest in Las Vegas, Morris only said he had "a big heart" and that there's more to his story than the feds' allegations. He didn't say what. No one answered his door Saturday. For Serpico, it doesn't matter. Despite the fact that Morris was turned in by his staff, Serpico said it's still too risky to expose fraud. "What matters is, to date, an honest cop is still afraid of informing on a crooked cop for fear of reprisal," he said.  "Until that changes, corruption is as bad as it ever was."

Former NYPD drug cop Jerry Bowens nabbed in killing of girlfriend

Former NYPD drug cop Jerry Bowens nabbed in killing of girlfriend
The New York Daily News by SAMUEL GOLDMSITH, JOE KEMP AND JONATHAN LEMIRE - March 10, 2009

A dirty ex-NYPD drug cop wanted for fatally shooting his girlfriend and wounding her pal had a loaded gun in his car when he was busted by cops outside a Staten Island precinct early Monday, police said. Jerry Bowens, 43, capped a bizarre night on the run by pulling over in his slain girlfriend's car to call media outlets and ask them to cover his upcoming surrender at the 120th Precinct stationhouse. But before Bowens could turn himself in, cops spotted him at 4 a.m. and arrested him. They discovered a loaded .357 revolver and a semiautomatic rifle in the car. It was not immediately known if Bowens used one of those weapons to put a bullet into the head of 28-year-old Catherine Donofrio on Sunday afternoon, cops said. "I lost a child," said the dead woman's grieving father, John Donofrio. "There are no words for that." The motive for the shooting remains unknown, but investigators do not believe the killing was connected to Bowens' indictment last year on charges of stealing crack from drug suspects to give to informants, police sources said. Bowens, a 13-year veteran of the NYPD who resigned from the force last month, had called Donofrio - described as his "on-again, off-again" girlfriend - Sunday and asked her for a ride because his car broke down, police said.

At 4 p.m., Donofrio drove herself and Bowens to the plush Greenpoint home of Melissa Simmons and they asked her friend if they could use the bathroom, police said. Minutes later, Bowens pulled Donofrio into the bathroom and shot her in the head. He then fired a pair of shots at Simmons but only grazed her head and arm. Bowens fled in Donofrio's Toyota Camry, making a quick stop at the Bensonhurst apartment building where the dead woman lived along with her legally blind parents and her elderly grandmother, police said. "This is such a tragedy," said neighbor Suzy Ryan. "She was very sweet and caring. She lived for her family." Donofrio, a law clerk who earned a pair of degrees from John Jay College, had once let Bowens live with her at the 70th St. building. But it was not clear why the ex-cop stopped there after the shooting. He did not speak to anyone in her family, police believe. Bowens next checked into a Jersey City motel, but his nervous behavior alarmed a bellhop, police said. Sensing that the motel employee had grown suspicious, Bowens abruptly checked out and drove to Staten Island to negotiate his surrender.

Cops said that Bowens had a pair of lesions on his arm consistent with a bullet's entry and exit wounds, but it was not clear if he had shot himself, police said. He was taken to Kings County Hospital for treatment and a psychiatric evaluation. He was expected to be arraigned on murder charges Tuesday. Bowens secretly pleaded guilty to the drug charges last month and had agreed to cooperate against four other narcotics officers implicated in the Brooklyn South corruption case. The lawyer for one of the other cops suggested that the pressure of the investigation may have led to the shooting. "The fact was that he was going to falsely testify against another officer," said Andrew Quinn, the lawyer for Sgt. Michael Arenella. "That could have been a factor in this." Bowens' own lawyer, Edward Mandery, said he was "saddened" by the tragic news but could not elaborate on his client's mind-set or health.With Scott Shifrel

Sunday, March 8, 2009

After 14 Years, a civil Case Against 2 Former Cops

After 14 years, a civil case against 2 former cops
NEWSDAY by COLLEEN LONG - March 4, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - In 1995, two detectives staking out a Bronx apartment unleashed a deadly barrage of 28 bullets on a pair of young robbery suspects, setting off angry protests against then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD.  The victims were face-down on the ground when they were killed, one shot eight times in the back and the second hit with 14 bullets, mostly in the back.  Now, 14 years later, the case is finally seeing a courtroom. The parents of the two victims are suing the city and former officers for $20 million.  Jury selection will continue Thursday in Bronx state Supreme Court. Opening arguments in the case were scheduled for Friday, said Seth Harris, a lawyer for the families.  The trial will revisit an era of community outrage against the Giuliani administration over allegations of excessive force by police officers who, like the shooters in the Bronx case, received little or no punishment.  "We look forward to shedding light on the corruption that permitted these boys to be killed without consequence or accountability," Harris said.

The city law department, defending the former officers in the case, would not comment on the lawsuit.  On the night in question, detectives James Crowe and Patrick Brosnan were called to the Bronx apartment on a tip there would be a robbery there. The victims, Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega, had come to the building to collect a debt they believed was owed to one of their girlfriends in a scam run by the man who lived at the apartment.  The cops told them to get on the ground and opened fire when Rosario and Vega did not comply quick enough. Vega, 21, and Rosario, 18, who were cousins, died, and another man with them was injured. The detectives said the men were armed, but they fired no shots.  Still, an NYPD investigation found the police acted within department guidelines, and a Bronx grand jury brought no criminal charges. Federal prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence. The officers retired from the force on a disability pension related to the incident in 1996.

Critics said the NYPD had overlooked incriminating details because Brosnan served as a volunteer bodyguard for the mayor's 1993 campaign. The case also called into question the authority of the fledgling Civilian Complaint Review Board, formed two years earlier as a way for citizens to log police complaints. An investigation by the board found that the detectives used excessive force, but the report was ignored by the police commissioner at the time, William Bratton.  "This was obviously a very serious case, and we conducted an investigation following the rules and authority we had, and we were surprised by how much we discovered at the location," said Hector Soto, the head of the board at the time, who resigned not long after the report.  "This was a very comprehensive and well-done report. And his response was to throw it in the garbage, and he wasn't even going to read it," Soto said.

A media request with Bratton's office, who is Los Angeles police chief, was not immediately returned Wednesday.  Soto said he resigned in part because of how Bratton responded. Investigators who had worked on the case either resigned or were fired by the next leader of the board _ a Giuliani appointee. But the case didn't go away, mostly because of Margarita Rosario, the mother of Anthony. She became a vocal activist, turning her car into a mobile tombstone, inscribing the back with the words: ANTHONY ROSARIO _ KILLED BY COPS. The family also said there was a racial element to the killings; the officers are white, the victims Hispanic.  Four years after the shooting, Rosario called in to Guiliani's radio show to say he had mischaracterized their case. Giuliani was later lambasted for suggesting on air that she look at her skills as a parent instead of how the officers behaved. He told her he felt terrible for her, but also accused her of ignoring her son's criminal past and distorting the facts of the case.

Rosario contends that two detectives ordered the two cousins to lay face down, then executed them while they begged for mercy. She has continued to speak out on the issues of police oversight and police brutality.  In the late 1990s, Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was sodomized with a broomstick in a police precinct. Two officers were convicted in the attack. A few years later, two police shootings of unarmed black men followed, including Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times after he reached into his pocket for a wallet. The acquittal of the officers in that case led to days of protests.  But the climate is different under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who are perceived as being more caring than their predecessors.  "The leading change in the city has been through Bloomberg," said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "Bloomberg and Kelly have definitely created a department that's more sensitive."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

'Mafia Cops' Get Life in Prison

'Mafia Cops' Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa sentenced to life in prison

The murderous "Mafia Cops," sentenced to die behind bars for eight mob-ordered executions, received a venomous sendoff Friday from the son of one victim: "Rot!" A packed Brooklyn federal courtroom erupted in cheers as Vincent Lino unloaded on Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa - the corrupt detective duo convicted of selling their badges to the Luchese crime family. "These two lowlifes shot and killed my father," roared an angry Lino, whose mobbed-up dad, Edward, was killed for $65,000 in 1990. "May youse have a long life in prison," he said in a thick Brooklyn accent. The portly Eppolito and his gaunt ex-partner sat quietly at the defense table for the final installment of their sordid career as cops-turned-contract-killers. They earned $4,000 a month on the payroll of Luchese underboss Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso from 1986 to 1990 to orchestrate murders and pass along confidential police information, prosecutors said. The daughter of victim Israel Greenwald, a jeweler kidnapped and killed by the pair, addressed her father as she stood before his murderers. "This evil crime robbed us of a lifetime of memories of you," said an emotional Yael Perlman, her eyes closed tight. "Daddy, I can't even bring myself to imagine the anguish you felt." Eppolito - sporting a sprawling white mustache - turned red as Perlman spoke, while a scowling, unshaven Caracappa betrayed no reaction.

Eppolito, the son of a mobster, was sentenced to life plus 100 years; Caracappa received life plus 80 years. Each was fined more than $4 million. Both declared their innocence despite a Brooklyn jury's resounding April 2006 verdict that established the pair as the most corrupt cops in NYPD history. "I am innocent of all these charges," said the 67-year-old Caracappa. "And you'll never take away my will to prove how innocent I am." Eppolito, 60, apologized to the families of the dead, but denied any role in killing them. "The federal government can take my life," Eppolito said. "I'm a man. They can't take my soul. They can't take my pride. They can't take my dignity. "I was a hardworking cop. I never hurt anybody. I never kidnapped anybody. ... I never did any of this." Although the duo was jailed after their convictions, the sentencing was delayed. Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein overturned the convictions on a technicality in 2006, but was reversed by an appeals court last September. Weinstein handed down the lengthy terms after prosecutor Mitra Hormozi said the pair's "heinous offense" merited the life sentences.

US corruption fuels drug trade: Mexican president

US corruption fuels drug trade: Mexican president
March 5, 2009

MEXICO CITY (AFP) — Mexican President Felipe Calderon hit back at accusations his government is failing in the fight against violent drug cartels, saying that corruption in the United States is also to blame. With murders among feuding Mexican drug cartels on the rise and continued ravenous demand for cocaine and other illegal drugs north of the border, Calderon said the United States should take a hard look at itself before pointing the finger at anyone else. "The main cause of the problems associated with organized crime is having the world's biggest consumer next to us," Calderon said in an interview with AFP. "Drug trafficking in the United States is fueled by the phenomenon of corruption on the part of the American authorities," he said, calling on US President Barack Obama to step up the fight against drugs in his own country. Calderon admitted some Mexican officials had helped cartels, but urged the United States to consider how many of its officials have been implicated. "I want to know how many American officials have been prosecuted for this," he said, listing a string of prosecutions made against Mexican police officers and government officials during his administration. "It is not an exclusively Mexican problem, it is a common problem between Mexico and the United States," he said.

Although cocaine is largely produced in South America, Mexican cartels control much of the multi-billion-dollar trade, transporting the drug to consumers in the United States. Since taking office in late 2006, Calderon has launched a wide-ranging crackdown on drug cartels, often with bloody repercussions, as cartels hit back with ever-higher levels of violence and intimidation. Mexican cities on the US border have suffered the brunt of the violence, prompting concerns in Washington that the killings and attacks could spill over the border. Some 5,300 people were murdered in drug violence across Mexico in 2008. Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, was worst hit, with more than 1,600 drug-related deaths reported. Top US military official Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is due in Mexico later this week as Washington prepares to step up military and other assistance to tackle the heavily armed cartels. "One of the things he expects to talk to his counterparts in Mexico and other officials about is the growing violence and growing threat with regard to narco-trafficking and the drug cartels," Captain John Kirby, spokesman for Mullen, also told AFP on Wednesday. Mexico's ill-equipped police and security forces are often out-gunned by the well-armed gangs. The administration of George W. Bush pledged 1.6 billion dollars over three years in security assistance to Mexico and Central America, primarily aimed at better equipping Mexico's security forces.
To even the playing field further, Calderon called on US officials to do more to stem the flow of weapons from the United States to Mexico, a route often used by traffickers to acquire arms. "The biggest empowerment of organized crime are the weapons that arrive from the United States," the president said. "Since 2006 we have decommissioned 27,000 arms, everything from missile launchers to 2,500 grenades. We have also found uniforms and arms belonging to the US Army." But he said recent talks with Washington had offered hope: "I have spoken to Obama about this subject.... We now have a clearer, more decisive response (from the current administration), one which matches the magnitude of the problem which we face. In late February, US Attorney General Eric Holder said US and Mexican authorities had arrested 750 people over 21 months in an anti-drug sweep, including 52 members of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel. That announcement came as Calderon said an additional 5,000 troops and 1,000 police would be deployed to the border region. While the United States has played down calls for its own troop deployment, recently appointed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said contingency plans to deal with violence spilling over the frontier are being reassessed.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Albany officer fired

Albany officer fired
The Albany Times Union - March 6, 2009

ALBANY, NEW YORK — A city police officer was fired Thursday, and while officials declined to discuss the reasons for the termination, the Times Union reported last year of allegations of marijuana use involving the 12-year veteran of the force. Thomas Towsley "was officially terminated from the department effective today, based on an arbitrator's decision," spokesman Detective James Miller said in a press release. Details of the arbitrator's ruling and an internal investigation will not be released, Miller said. Towsley was suspended Feb. 6, 2008, in connection with allegations of pot use, the Times Union reported two days later, quoting departmental sources familiar with the matter. Towsley's Albany attorney, David Ehrlich, said, "The decision is very unfortunate, but Mr. Towsley is considering all of his options." Ehrlich refused to say if one of those options would be to file a lawsuit to overturn the decision. The release said Towsley was suspended by Chief James Tuffey following an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, the internal affairs unit. "Every officer of the Albany Police Department is expected to act in a professional manner at all times and with integrity, and the overall majority of officers do so," Tuffey said in the statement. Albany Police Officers Union President Christian Mesley said the union was involved "early on ... After that, Officer Towsley opted to be represented by outside counsel, which is his right. We wished him well at the time and we wish him well in the future."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Police Sergeant Arrested

SPD Sergeant Arrested
The Daily Leader by Leigh Kreimeier - March 5, 2009

Stuttgart, Arkansas - Randy Crawford, an officer with the Stuttgart Police Department since 2002, was arrested Wednesday afternoon for bribery of a public servant/corruption and is currently being held in Arkansas County Detention Center in DeWitt with no bond. “He admitted to taking money from local drug dealers in exchange for what the police department was doing,” SPD Chief Mike Smith said. The arrest is the result of an Arkansas State Police Investigation, Smith said. Crawford was originally the Stuttgart Animal Control Officer before being moved to patrol in 2002 and was currently in the role of K-9 officer. The bribery/corruption charge is a Class D felony, which carries a fine of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated by the Stuttgart Police Department, because nobody is above the law,” Smith said. “We have good officers here and I don’t want the public to look down on them because of one bad apple.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ex-jail guard now faces federal case

Ex-jail guard now faces federal case
The Albany Times Union by BOB GARDINIER - March 4, 2009

TROY, NY — The district attorney's office has dropped drug and weapons charges against a former correction officer and transferred the case to federal court. Harold Gaines, 40, of Latham was arrested at 11 p.m. June 2, 2007, in Hoosick Falls when he was allegedly found in possession of marijuana bagged for sale, a rifle and a BB gun after a traffic stop. Gaines faced charges of second- and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and misdemeanor marijuana possession. District Attorney Richard McNally said his office dropped those charges against Gaines and handed the case over to the U.S. District Court in Albany because federal laws better define weapons charges that can be brought if a person is simultaneously charged with drug trafficking. Gaines was charged Feb. 26 in U.S. District Court with knowingly carrying a firearm during and in relation to alleged drug trafficking and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, according to the federal case file. He is free on bail pending arraignment on the federal charges. Gaines was fired from his job at Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie. He had been a correction officer for almost 20 years.

According to the federal affidavit, Gaines was allegedly in possession of 69 plastic baggies of pot and had a Kel-Tec Model Sub-2000 semiautomatic 9mm collapsible rifle on the front seat when he was stopped. Under state law, the gun is considered a long gun, not an assault rifle, so it is legal to own. He also had a BB pistol that looked like a 9mm handgun tucked into the front of his pants. The case had been on hold after county Judge Robert Jacon dropped the charges against Gaines during pre-trial hearings arguing that Hoosick village police did not have probable cause to search a duffle bag on Gaines' front passenger seat that contained the marijuana and collapsible rifle. The district attorney's office appealed, and in December the Supreme Court Appellate Division reversed Jacon and reinstated charges.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More cop trouble for Schenectady force

More cop trouble for Schenectady force
Schenectady police officer allegedly was drunk and left scene of Colonie crash
The Albany Times Union by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST - March 3, 2009

COLONIE, NY-- A Schenectady police officer surrendered his drivers license Monday night in Colonie Town Court after his arraignment on charges of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a crash from an accident Sunday night. Officer Michael R. Brown, 27, of Pattersonville, and his attorney refused to answer questions from the hordes of media that surrounded them as they waited in the hallway outside of Colonie Town Court. Brown pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, and was released. He's due in court March 23. Brown was in court to answer to charges that just before 10:30 p.m. Sunday his 2005 Toyota pickup hit a car stopped at the intersection of Route 9 and Osborne Road, said Detective Lt. John Van Alstyne.

The impact sent the car Brown struck into another vehicle, then Brown allegedly drove off east down Route 378 toward Menands, Van Alstyne said. Brown sustained a head injury and a passenger in the car he allegedly struck was also injured but not seriously. Responding officers found Brown's vehicle stopped about two-tenths of a mile down the road, but Van Alstyne said it's not clear whether he intended to pull over or whether he was stopped by the extensive damage to his truck. Brown refused a breath alcohol test. Brown, who has been suspended 30 days without pay, is the latest Schenectady cop to face charges in the last decade. Seven Schenectady cops, including former Police Chief Gregory T. Kaczmarek, have gone to prison. Another two face pending criminal charges. Schenectady Public Safety Commissioner Wayne E. Bennett issued this statement. "The majority of the Schenectady Police Officers conduct themselves in compliance with all laws as well as department rules and regulations. Regrettably, a few officers continue to refuse to abide by these mandates. In such cases, ... I will utilize my authority as disciplinary officer to assess penalties, including termination where appropriate, to put an end to this behavior ... The case of Patrolman Michael R. Brown will be handled consistent with this policy." Staff writer Christen Gowan contributed to this report. Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or

Officers in Taped Beating Suspended

Officers in Taped Beating Suspended in Pr. George's
The Washington Post by Ruben Castaneda - March 3, 2009

Two Prince George's County police officers who are seen on a police videotape beating and pepper-spraying a Latino motorist during an October traffic stop have been suspended from the police force, officials said. In a statement, Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton announced the suspension of the officers, John Wynkoop and Scott Wilson, pending an internal investigation. Wynkoop and Wilson, who charged the motorist with assaulting them, have been suspended with pay, officials said. Hylton said he ordered the investigation as soon as the incident was brought to his attention Friday. Much of the encounter was captured by a video camera mounted in Wynkoop's police cruiser. One of the officers also is heard mocking Rodriguez's Spanish accent.

"This investigation will be conducted thoroughly, yet expeditiously," Hylton said in the statement, released Saturday night. "I ask the public to withhold judgment on this incident until the completion of our investigation." He said the probe's findings will be released publicly. County Council member William A. Campos (D-Hyattsville), whose district includes many Latino residents, said in a statement that he has confidence in Hylton "and his commitment to having the law enforcement personnel act professionally to protect and serve all citizens in the community regardless of their economic status, color of their skin or language they speak." Wynkoop and Wilson did not return phone calls to their workplaces last week. Wynkoop did not return a call to his home yesterday. The traffic stop occurred on Greenbelt Road in College Park shortly after 8 p.m. Oct. 19. In sworn charging documents, Wynkoop said he stopped Rafael A. Rodriguez, 30, a permanent legal resident from El Salvador, for having illegal blue-tinted turn signal lights on his car. Wynkoop charged Rodriguez with two counts of assault. On Friday, when Rodriguez was to go on trial, a county prosecutor dropped the charges without explanation.

Wynkoop accused Rodriguez of punching him in the stomach with a closed fist. He also alleged that an enraged Rodriguez assaulted him and Wilson even after Wilson pepper-sprayed him. The videotape, which was subpoenaed by defense attorney Terrell N. Roberts III, shows Rodriguez questioning the citation, saying another officer had told him his lights were legal. A reporter for The Washington Post has viewed the tape. The tape shows Wynkoop ordering Rodriguez to turn off the car's engine and get out. Rodriguez does not immediately do so, and Wynkoop opens the door and pulls him out. Rodriguez does not punch or attempt to strike either officer on the tape. Wynkoop slams Rodriguez against the car and handcuffs one of his hands. Suddenly, Wilson pepper-sprays Rodriguez but also hits Wynkoop with the spray, and Wynkoop cries out, "I can't see, dude!"

The three men go out of camera range, then Rodriguez returns and sits down near his car while Wilson stands nearby. Seconds later, Wynkoop returns, grabs Rodriguez by the shoulders and slams him against his car. At that point, Wilson strikes Rodriguez several times in the head with his retractable police baton. The three men go out of camera range again, and Rodriguez is heard repeatedly crying, "Don't kill me!" In the moments before the encounter, Wynkoop and Wilson are audiotaped sitting inside the police cruiser. Wynkoop says that when he worked for Metro Transit Police, the chief sent him to "hug-a-thug" classes. After Rodriguez's car was pulled over, but before the physical altercation, one of the officers -- it is not clear which one -- is heard mocking Rodriguez's Spanish accent. Roberts, Rodriguez's attorney, said he does not have confidence in the county police department's ability to police itself but said he will allow Rodriguez to meet with internal affairs investigators in his presence.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sources: NYPD cop accused in rape case

Sources: NYPD cop accused in rape case

A Manhattan woman has accused a New York City police officer of raping her in her apartment in December, police department sources said Sunday. The officer and his partner, whose names have not been released, have been placed on modified desk duty and are under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, sources said. The sources gave the following account: On Dec. 7, the woman, a business executive who lives in the East Village, was drunk and unable to find the money to pay her cab fare. The cabdriver phoned 911 and the two officers, one a veteran and the other fairly new to the force, helped the woman get to her apartment. Both officers left but returned 40 minutes later. The woman said she was attacked during their second visit. Surveillance cameras in the building captured the two officers entering and leaving the building twice, sources said. The woman reported the alleged assault to the Manhattan district attorney's office. "The DA's office has gone on for a period of time with this investigation, which would seem to indicate that there are questions about the complainer's original version of the facts," says Stephen Worth, an attorney for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association who is representing one of the officers. An NYPD spokesman would only say, "The matter is being investigated by Internal Affairs."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The New York Post by BRAD HAMILTON and REUVEN BLAU - March 1, 2009

An NYPD patrolman has been accused of raping an intoxicated female executive after the cop and his partner responded to a 911 call from her cabdriver, who said she needed help getting up to her apartment. The officers raced to the aid of the woman, who had vomited and was disoriented during the ride home to her East Village apartment on Dec. 7. They got her safely in the door and later returned to check on her condition, two law-enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said. But when they came back a second time, the older of the two cops allegedly assaulted the woman, raping her while his partner stood by, the sources said. The next day, the woman - a successful business exec who had been out on the town with a group of female colleagues - told a friend about the attack and called the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, they said. Neither cop has been arrested, but both have been put on modified duty. "It looks pretty bad for the cops," said an NYPD source. "It's not good for us. It's going to make all of our jobs tougher." Paul Browne, the NYPD spokesman, would not comment on the case, but a police official confirmed that there was "an active investigation," and sources said the two cops were expected to be charged.

But the suspects' attorney, Stephen Worth, said, "The fact that there have been no arrests makes it obvious that the prosecutors have some questions about the veracity of the complainant's allegations." The woman underwent a rape exam and investigators meticulously combed her apartment looking for evidence, sources said. Investigators found surveillance videotape from the accuser's building at 13th Street and Avenue A, showing the officers coming and going multiple times on the night of the alleged crime. They searched the officers' station-house lockers, where they found heroin and personal information of other women in the locker of the older cop, the sources said. Both tested negative for illegal drugs, they said. The two officers met with prosecutors but came with their lawyers and refused to answer questions, the sources said.