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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cop whined at low pay - now he's accused of writing scores of bogus tix

The New York Daily News by ALISON GENDAR - April 29, 2008

He was the poster boy for low-paid NYPD officers, but now he is under investigation for sticking it to the public with scores of bogus tickets, sources told the Daily News. Joseph Harmon won public sympathy last May when he wrote The News about how he couldn't pay the rent on his cop's salary and how he, his three kids and pregnant wife were about to be evicted. He said the letters "CPR" on patrol cars, which stand for Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect, for him meant: "Can't Pay Rent."

Fellow cops offered the rookie free apartments. Strangers offered money, and The News found him a financial planner to help him stretch the $1,247.47 pay check he got twice a month. Now everyone is feeling burned. Harmon was stripped of his gun last month and pulled from the Queens housing project he had patrolled, after investigators alleged the 30-year-old cop issued more than 80 bogus tickets over the past two years. In some cases, Harmon allegedly made up names and addresses on bogus summonses for quality-of-life violations, such as public drinking, sources said.

More troubling, they said, Harmon stopped actual residents, took down their names and addresses and stockpiled their information for future tickets. "He would keep the names and information in his memo book, and use them when he needed to meet a quota; at least that was his excuse," a law enforcement source said. "The people he stopped had no idea that any summonses [were] ever written. It's loopy on this cop's part," a source said. Investigators so far found at least two examples where Harmon used the names of actual residents on bogus tickets. Harmon was flagged when a high proportion of his summonses came back to nonexistent names and addresses, sources said. The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau opened an investigation, as did the Bronx and Queens district attorney offices, sources said.

"They are all allegations, just accusations," Harmon said in a brief telephone interview."I have been instructed not to talk about it, but they are just that - allegations." When asked if his fellow officers, and those who opened their hearts and wallets, should feel betrayed, Harmon said, "It happened, you are absolutely right, but these are just accusations." "The article last year shone a light upon me. I guess I made a name for myself and I guess some people didn't take a liking to it," Harmon said.

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