CLICK HERE TO REPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRUPTION (Provide as much information as possible: full names, descriptions, dates, times, activity, witnesses, etc.)

Telephone: 347-632-9775

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cops Going After Cops Who Expose Corruption

Internal Affairs leak eyed in 42nd Precinct cop-vs.-cop case
The New York Daily News by Rocco Parascandola and John Marzulli - February 25, 2010

Frank Palestro resigned his post with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and was transferred out of the 42nd Precinct after he was outed as the whistleblower. Internal Affairs investigators are trying to determine whether one of their own tipped off a Bronx stationhouse that a union delegate had lodged corruption allegations, sources said Wednesday. Officer Frank Palestro resigned his post with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and was transferred out of the 42nd Precinct after he was outed as the whistleblower. The Internal Affairs Bureau is still probing his allegations that Lt. Susana Seda ordered cops to write bogus summonses for traffic violations, refused to take crime complaints and tampered with a crime scene. Such complaints are supposed to remain anonymous - but soon after Palestro made the allegations, a mousetrap with his name on it was found inside the stationhouse and an IAB log with his cell phone number was stuck on his locker. The NYPD and Seda, who now works for the Bronx Task Force, have refused comment. "The log was sent back to the precinct by IAB and I think it was done deliberately," said Palestro's lawyer, Eric Sanders.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Police Union Delegate/Whistleblower Alleges Corruption

NYPD whistleblower Palestro reports alleged corruption at 42nd Precinct - and he was union delegate
The New York Daily News by Rocco Parascandola and John Marzulli - February 24, 2010

Officer Frank Palestro was a union delegate at the 42nd Precinct until last week.

The NYPD'S latest whistleblower comes from a most unlikely place - the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. Officer Frank Palestro was a union delegate at the 42nd Precinct until last week, when he was outed as the tipster who secretly reported allegations of corruption by a lieutenant to Internal Affairs. After a mousetrap with his name on it was found inside the South Bronx stationhouse, Palestro was transferred to another command for his safety. "I was the PBA delegate, and now I'm labeled a rat for doing what I was supposed to do," the nine-year veteran told the Daily News yesterday. "This will stay with me for the rest of my career," he said. "There's a handful of guys on the job who say they've got my back, but there are also people who won't answer my calls. My reputation is shot, but I know I did the right thing." Palestro's allegations targeted Lt. Susana Seda, the former midnight platoon commander, who declined comment.

He said she ordered cops to write summonses for traffic violations they did not witness, refused to take crime complaints and tampered with a gun at a crime scene. "She ordered me to write a summons at the scene of a vehicle accident, and recently I had to testify in traffic court that I didn't witness the red light violation," he said. Palestro, one of three elected union reps in the precinct, acknowledges it's unheard of for a PBA official to drop a dime on a fellow officer. Even as he faces being ostracized as a whistleblower, he says he had to report what he and other cops saw. "I wrestled with it for a while because I'm a delegate and we don't do things like this," Palestro said. "But these cops are young, and they came to me because they trusted me, and I felt I had no choice because it was about corruption and they didn't know what to do." Palestro said Seda was driven by the pressures of the Compstat and Trafficstat strategies, which rate police performance based on statistics. "The Four-Two Precinct is clearly in need of oversight," said lawyer Eric Sanders of the Law Firm of Jeffrey Goldberg in Lake Success, who has met with Palestro. Palestro made three anonymous calls to the IAB between September and December 2009 from his personal cell phone. The phone number is on a confidential document - called a "log" - which somehow found its way to the precinct, stuffed in the vent of Palestro's locker. "[Seda] told everybody I was a 'f------ rat,'" he said. Police sources said the IAB is probing the allegations against Seda. No action has been taken, and the NYPD had no comment. The IAB also is investigating how Palestro was unmasked, and it went to the precinct after the mousetrap was found. "I hope IAB finds out who did this," he said, adding that he has not gotten flak from the union.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Call to Investigate NYPD for Racial Profiling

Group wants Cuomo to investigate NYPD for racial profiling after stop-and-frisk numbers soar
The New York Daily News by Erin Einhorn - February 21, 2010

A black police group called on state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Sunday to investigate racial profiling in the NYPD. "We believe the numbers justify his intervention," said Noel Leader, a founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, at a news conference in front of One Police Plaza in Manhattan. The group was responding to police data released last week that showed a record 575,304 people - 87% of them black or Latino - were stopped and questioned by city officers in 2009. Only 6% of those stopped were arrested. "This is a preposterous and a blatant form of racial profiling, which is a violation of [civil rights]," Leader said. "Police Commissioner Kelly's administration is one of the most abusive of this particular policy, and it's time that the New York State Attorney General step in." Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne defended the policy, which he said helped police recover 7,612 weapons in 2009. "Stops are a life-saving practice in neighborhoods experiencing the most crime, and responsible, in part, for the record low in murders recorded last year," he said. A spokeswoman for Cuomo said his office would review the data.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Troubled cop cleared in 2008 drunken driving crash

Troubled cop cleared in 2008 drunken driving crash
The Times Union by PAUL NELSON - February 17, 2010

SCHENECTADY, NY -- Fighting to keep his job amid criminal and internal charges, jailed city cop John Lewis won a legal victory today when a judge acquitted him of drunk driving charges.
City Court Judge Guido Loyola said there simply was not enough evidence to convict Lewis, 40, of driving while intoxicated charges related to his arrest the day after Christmas 2008. The judge also dismissed a traffic ticket for speeding. The judge did convict Lewis of traffic infractions for failure to drive on the proper side of the roadway and ordered him to pay a $160 fine. "It was the right decision and we're pleased," said Lewis' attorney, Michael Horan. "I think the judge focused on the essential elements of the crime, which was the testimony of the officers on the scene, whether they observed any indication that the defendant was intoxicated." Assistant District Attorney Michael Tiffany said, "We put the facts out there and the judge makes the determination. We felt there were sufficient facts to find him guilty." When asked about trial testimony that officers on the scene turned off a police car video camera and microphones, Tiffany said, "Why would somebody want to turn off their cameras and microphones and what conclusions can you draw from that?"

It's the second time Loyola has exonerated Lewis. In March 2008, Loyola, in another bench trial, cleared Lewis of harassment related to allegations he had fought with his ex-wife over custody of their young son. But his legal woes are far from over and top police officials have publicly said they want him fired. He is currently being held without bail in Schenectady County Jail after facing a second DWI charge in relation to a Jan. 23 accident in the Ellis Hospital parking lot. Lewis, who his attorney said has a drinking problem, also pleaded not guilty to a 10-count indictment accusing him of using a former girlfriend's computer to hack into his ex-wife's e-mail accounts. He has filed a notice of claim contending the city conspired with his ex-wife to get him fired. In December, Lewis suffered a stab wound in Massachusetts, allegedly at the hands of his girlfriend. He has not been on active duty with the Schenectady Police Department since March 2008 and is on unpaid suspension. During the two-day DWI trial, Assistant District Attorney Michael Tiffany argued that Lewis was out drinking all night on Dec. 26, 2008 and crashed his black SUV into a parked vehicle in the 1000 block of Eastern Avenue at around 4:30 a.m.Defense Attorney Michael Horan countered that prosecutors couldn't prove Lewis was drunk at the accident scene, noting he didn't take a Breathalyzer until four hours later. Meanwhile, an independent hearing officer who presided at an internal affairs disciplinary hearing will soon issue a decision that could result in his termination. In the past two years, Lewis has been arrested a half-dozen times on domestic violence and drunken driving charges. He also is facing charges stemming from a fight with his brother, also a police officer. Lewis' trouble with the department date back to 1998, when an arbitrator reversed his firing over his use of a racial slur at the police station. Paul Nelson can be reached at 454-5347 or by e-mail at

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cop Charged With Bank Robbery

Minneapolis cop charged with bank robbery
The Star Tribune by KATIE HUMPHREY and DAVID CHANEN - January 7, 2010
Police sources familiar with the investigation say Timothy Edward Carson could be connected to at least a dozen robberies in the metro area over the past two weeks.

Minneapolis police officer Timothy Edward Carson's shift on Wednesday started at 9 a.m. But he wasn't there. By the time he told a supervisor he was running late at 9:30, the FBI says, Carson had robbed an Apple Valley bank and was well on his way to getting caught. Carson, 28, was arrested early Thursday and appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon, charged with bank robbery. More criminal charges are expected to follow; police sources familiar with the investigation say he could be connected to at least a dozen robberies in the metro area over the past two weeks. "The bottom line with police work is ethics and trust and respect. He blew every one of them," said Lt. John Delmonico, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, of which Carson is a member. "Good luck to him in jail." The criminal complaint outlining the bank robbery charge against Carson shows that the trail of clues leading to his arrest began minutes before he allegedly robbed the Wells Fargo Bank on Pilot Knob Road. At 8:37 a.m., Apple Valley police officer Kurt Schultz pulled over Carson's white Mitsubishi Galant because it lacked a front license plate. Carson identified himself as a Minneapolis police officer and was allowed to go on his way. At 9:17 a.m., Schultz was called to the bank on the robbery report. A minute earlier, a man in a black jacket and ski mask had robbed the bank. Armed with a handgun, he had ordered the tellers to give him money, which he put in a backpack, before fleeing to a light-colored vehicle parked outside. En route to the bank, Schultz saw Carson's car headed north near the bank at 9:22 a.m. "That was the break in the case," said Apple Valley Police Chief Scott Johnson. Minneapolis police say Carson arrived for work at 10 a.m.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

FBI Taped Cop Offering Gun to Drug Dealer

FBI allegedly taped NM officer offering gun to dealer
The Albuquerque Journal - February 4, 2010
The officers has been on administrative leave since Oct. 2009

SANTA FE, N.M. — A Santa Fe cop may end up losing his badge after he was caught on an FBI tape promising a gun to a drug dealer "who clearly conveyed his intent to commit murder," according to police documents. Santa Fe police Detective Jose Valencia - who was the police union president at the time the conversation was caught on tape two years ago - was recommended for termination by Chief Aric Wheeler last week, the Journal has learned. The alleged drug dealer is Maximiliano Gonzales of Pecos, whom Valencia has known on some level for years. Valencia has been on administrative leave since October. He also is accused of providing the description of an undercover officer to Gonzales and with making disparaging remarks about fellow officers to the drug suspect, according to state Department of Public Safety documents. But a lawsuit against the city of Santa Fe is in the works, according to an attorney for Valencia who claims his client was the victim of entrapment on the part of "administration higher-ups." Albuquerque attorney Alvin Garcia told the Journal the actions taken against Valencia were a product of a "retaliation" against his client "for reporting corruption (within the department) and not participating in cover-ups." "He was warned that things would come back to bite him," Garcia said. "And they have." Notice of action The allegations against Valencia are spelled out in a DPS document that calls for Valencia's certification as an officer to be revoked, which was written by state Law Enforcement Academy Board director Arthur Ortiz. Valencia is scheduled to go before the board Thursday for a formal hearing. The board is expected to determine his fate at a meeting in March.

The FBI was investigating a separate case two years ago when the agency recorded conversations between Valencia and Gonzales, according to FBI spokesman Darrin Jones. The FBI - which was not investigating Valencia - turned over the information to Santa Fe police and that ended the bureau's involvement in the matter, according to Jones. Jones, who would not say what the FBI investigation was about, said Valencia was not being wiretapped. According to Ortiz's document, Valencia spoke with a "known criminal and drug dealer" by phone Feb. 22 and 26, 2008. During those conversations, Valencia "agreed to provide" a gun to Gonzales, who planned on using it to commit murder, the document states. The document also says Valencia "provided the criminal with a description of an undercover officer who was possibly investigating the criminal, and provided the criminal with information and advice adverse to law enforcement." Another document associated with the academy board investigation states Valencia was "degrading law enforcement by speaking negatively about his fellow officers to a known criminal." And when Santa Fe police talked to Valencia about the incident, the detective "was untruthful with investigating officers," according to Ortiz's reports. The academy board sent Valencia a notice of contemplated action in August. The next month, the detective went before the board for an informal hearing, where Valencia "took no responsibility for his actions, saying it was a misunderstanding because he was conducting a ruse on the informant to obtain information from him," according to the report. Garcia, Valencia's attorney, said Valencia has "been labeled a dirty cop before he has an opportunity to present his side." He contends police administration higher-ups became upset with Valencia after he refused to participate in "cover-ups," but he wouldn't be more specific. Valencia's alleged wrongdoing took place under the administration of former Police Chief Eric Johnson. Current Chief Aric Wheeler was a deputy chief at the time.

Entrapment claim

Valencia was doing his job when he met Gonzales and followed all protocol, without knowing he was being set up, Garcia said. "This guy didn't just fall out of a tree and land at the doorstep and ask for a gun," Garcia said. "They were entrapping him." Garcia denies Valencia was offering to provide a weapon to Gonzales. Garcia also contends the City Attorney's Office has engaged in activity that is "unfair and perhaps illegal" by not producing to his client the Santa Fe police internal affairs documentation or the FBI recordings. Garcia said he expects to file a tort claim notice with the city this week and will spell out his allegations in a coming lawsuit. Garcia said Wheeler recommended Valencia's termination last Thursday, though Wheeler declined to comment on that, citing the case as a confidential personnel matter and the prospect of litigation. The termination must be approved by the city manager, and Valencia will have a chance to appeal. Allan Lopez, who was elected to replace Valencia as head of the Santa Fe Police Officers Association in December, said that if the allegations are true, they would "have a big impact on our Police Department and our extended law enforcement family." Lopez said that the allegations are "serious and alarming" and that, while the union supports due process for everyone, "we can never condone or support these allegations," if they're found to be true. Lopez also said the allegations first surfaced about a year ago, and the Police Department and City Hall administration were aware of them. He said there was a union "no confidence" vote against Valencia in January 2009.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ex-Prison Guard Sought in 2 Slayings Caught

Ex-prison guard sought in 2 upstate slayings caught
The Associated Press - February 5, 2010

PLATTSBURGH, NY -- A retired New York state prison guard who eluded a manhunt for six days will face second-degree murder charges in the fatal shootings of his ex-girlfriend and the man she was dating, authorities said today. Anthony Pavone, 52, of Morrisonville was scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in Clinton County Court in Plattsburgh, where he was being flown with a police escort after his capture earlier in the day outside Binghamton. The fugitive surrendered around 4 this morning after dozens of law enforcement officers surrounded the small motel where he was staying, State Police Maj. Richard Smith said. Pavone's pickup truck was spotted in the parking lot of the Del Motel in Kirkwood late Thursday night by a Broome County sheriff's deputy, Smith said. Pavone was wanted for last weekend's killings of 52-year-old Timothy Carter and 43-year-old Patricia Howard at Carter's home in Dannemora, 140 miles north of Albany. Police didn't discuss a motive for the slayings during a news conference today. State police Capt. Robert LaFountain said investigators are trying to determine why Pavone went to the Binghamton area, 210 miles southwest of Dannemora, near the Canadian border. After police evacuated the motel, police began negotiating with Pavone to surrender. Pavone, who worked 25 years at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora before retiring in 2007, told police he was armed, but surrendered without incident after a more than four-hour standoff. Police say Howard and Pavone had dated but had recently broken up. Carter and Howard went on their second date last Saturday, Howard's birthday. Authorities said Howard called State Police before 4 a.m. Sunday to report that Pavone was outside the house and wouldn't leave. Troopers later arrived and found Howard and Carter dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Motel owner Ashok Patel told The Associated Press that Pavone checked into his $50-a-night room on Tuesday. He said police didnt tell him why they were interested in the guest in Room 20 at the 26-room motel, only that "they were looking for one guy with a black truck." Patel said he had no idea Pavone was wanted in connection with a double slaying. "His behavior is like a normal guy," Patel said. Carter had worked at Clinton state prison as civilian maintenance employee since November 2005. Howard, a divorced mother of two daughters, was a dental hygienist in Plattsburgh. Pavone's capture ended a six-day search involving numerous law enforcement agencies in northern New York. "Its a huge relief not only for law enforcement but also for the general public in this area and definitely for the family, friends and loved-ones of the victims," LaFountain said.

Correction Officer and 3 Lawyers Arrested in Real Estate Scam

3 lawyers and correction officer among 12 charged with real estate fraud
The New York Daily News by William Sherman - February 4, 2010

Smith for NewsKings County District Attorney Charles Hynes (l.) announce charges against 12 people for real estate and mortgage fraud in a press conference at the office of the Kings County District Attorney. A man who collected $16,250 in rent for an apartment he didn't own was among a dozen people charged Thursday with real-estate fraud in Brooklyn. Three lawyers and a city correction officer were also named in the indictments announced by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. "There is an epidemic," Hynes said, adding the dirty dozen reaped more than $2.6 million in profits through the schemes.

The indictments charge that:
  • Earl Davis placed an ad on Craigslist and collected a full year's rent in advance after giving the victim a forged lease.
  • Correction Officer Margareth Blanc collected more than $30,000 in federal rent subsidies with forged applications while living in her sister's apartment.
  • Deric Nelson worked a phony deed scam, making it look like he owned a building he'd already sold - then rending vacant apartments.
  • Attorney Alexander Landy bought a home, took out a $500,000 mortgage, never registered the deed or the loan, and then sold the home without paying a nickel to the lender. He was able to fool the buyer's title company because there was no public record of the mortgage.
  • Another lawyer, Alan Rocoff, a court-appointed referee in the sale of a church, deposited $200,000 into his own account instead of turning the money over to the court. Both Landy and Rocoff have resigned from the bar. "Ordinarily, in real estate deals, you would say, 'Get a lawyer,'" said Hynes. "Now you say, 'Get an honest lawyer.' You have to pay attention to the lawyers you hire, you have to get referrals." Jean Kemp, a victim of one scam, described how shocked she was to get a call demanding payment for a mortgage on her home - since she'd paid off the mortgage 23 years ago. "It was so scary. I was just furious," she said. It turned out that a lawyer, Jarrett Haber, and his associate, took out a $225,000 mortgage on her home without her knowledge and used that money to pay a debt in another real estate scam, the indictment said.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Veteran Cop Indicted in Plot to Scam Drug Dealers

Veteran Bronx cop Miguel Burgos indicted in plot to fleece drug dealers
The New York Daily News by Samuel Goldsmith and Rocco Parascandola - February 4, 2010

A city cop was charged Wednesday with helping to plan a ripoff of drug dealers. Miguel Burgos, 32, allegedly gave his unnamed co-conspirators a police scanner and a hydraulic jack used by emergency workers for a 2008 caper. Burgos was arrested Tuesday afternoon while on his way to work at the 52nd Precinct in the Bronx. He has been suspended from the NYPD, a source said. A cop since 2004, he appeared in Manhattan Federal Court yesterday where he was arraigned on a conspiracy charge that carries up to 20 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty and was freed on $100,000 bond. "I can't talk about it, I have nothing to say," Burgos he said as he left. The cop was arrested in a joint sting operation by the NYPD and Drug Enforcement Administration, but few details were released. The indictment unsealed yesterday said he gave his cohorts a Hydra-Ram so they could rob drug pushers. The $1,500 tool can exert 10,000 pounds of force and pry open a steel door. It's unclear how Burgos knows the co-conspirators or whether the scanner and jack were NYPD property. The targets were not named. The feds said the probe is continuing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Longterm Police Committee Chairman Pleads Guilty to Bribery

Chicago alderman pleads guilty to corruption charges; says he took bribe from developer
The Associated Press - February 1, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago alderman has pleaded guilty to bribery and tax fraud charges and resigned his seat. Isaac Carothers admitted Monday that he accepted $40,000 worth of home improvements from a developer in exchange for pushing a zoning change through the City Council. Hours later, the 55-year-old Carothers submitted a letter resigning his post on the council, where he was the longtime chairman of the police and fire committee. Prosecutors have agreed to a 28-month prison sentence as long as Carothers continues to cooperate with their investigation. That's well below federal sentencing guidelines. Authorities have accused developer Calvin Boender of paying the bribes. Boender has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges.


Chicago Alderman Isaac Carothers pleads guilty to corruption - February 1, 2010

(AP) — The chairman of the Chicago City Council's police and fire committee pleaded guilty Monday to taking $40,000 worth of home improvements in exchange for a zoning change. Alderman Issac Carothers said through his attorneys he would resign from the City Council immediately and testify as a government witness at the upcoming trial of developer Calvin Boender, who he said paid for new painting, windows, storm doors and air conditioning at his home. "In his heart, he deeply regrets what he has done here," defense attorney Jeffrey Steinback told reporters while Carothers stood by in silence. Carothers will be sentenced to 28 months in prison in return for his cooperation — half the low end of the sentencing guideline range. He must also pay $17,773 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit $40,000. Boender's trial is due to begin March 8. He has pleaded not guilty wire and mail fraud, and obstruction of justice. Steinback told reporters that Carothers had initially asked Boender how much he would be billed for the home improvements. But he accepted them without charge as a reward for pushing through the zoning change, Steinback said. Carothers admitted that he pushed through a zoning change in the Galewood Yards neighborhood on Chicago's West Side at Boender's request. Boender allegedly wanted the neighborhood rezoned from a manufacturing area to commercial and residential use. According to the signed plea agreement, Carothers also got Boender to contribute money to an unnamed candidate for state representative. Specifically, Carothers pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of tax fraud. Meanwhile, 10 current and former Chicago aldermen urged the court to bar Boender's lawyers from making them testify at the developer's fraud and obstruction of justice trial, scheduled for March 8. Boender's lawyers have subpoenaed the 10 aldermen as witnesses. Chicago Corporation Counsel Mara Georges told Dow in court papers that if forced to take the stand the aldermen most likely will be asked why they voted in favor of the zoning change sought by Boender. She said that would violate the principle of legislative immunity. Under that principle, lawmakers cannot be compelled to testify in court about their legislative activities. The aldermen are William Banks, Ed Burke, Walter Burnett, Emma Mitts, Ricardo Munoz, Patrick J. O'Connor, Helen Schiller, Eugene Schulter, Ed Smith and Bernard Stone. The City Council has been plagued by corruption for decades as part of what critics have described as a "culture of corruption' in Illinois. Dozens of aldermen have been convicted. The most recent before Carothers was former Alderman Arenda Troutman who last February was sentenced to four years for taking payoffs to push through zoning changes and hiding them from the tax collector. One of the city's most prominent former aldermen, Edward R. Vrdolyak, pleaded guilty last year to a mail fraud scheme involving the sale of a Near North Side building but his case was not related to the council. He was sentenced to five years of probation but a federal appeals panel recently ordered him re-sentenced.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cops Fudging Stats; Felonies Become Misdemeanors

Brooklyn's 81st Precinct probed by NYPD for fudging stats; felonies allegedly marked as misdemeanors
The New York Daily News by Rocco Parascandola - February 2, 2010

A Brooklyn precinct is under investigation for manipulating statistics to make its cops look like better crimefighters, the Daily News has learned. Two probes are centered around whether Bedford-Stuyvesant's 81st Precinct recorded felonies as misdemeanors and refused to take complaints from victims - all in an effort to drive down the crime rate, sources said. And the allegations came from one of the precinct's officers. Officer Adrian Schoolcraft shared his suspicions with the Internal Affairs Bureau and the Quality Assurance Division, the NYPD unit responsible for maintaining the integrity of crime stats. Schoolcraft told The News the top brass are so concerned with numbers that one precinct lieutenant is known as "The Shredder" because he's often spotted destroying documents. NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne confirmed the Quality Assurance Division probe. Other police sources confirmed both investigations. "We have received these complaints, and Quality Assurance has undertaken a review. These complaints are being reviewed as to whether or not this is true and whether this was done as a matter of error or intentionally," Browne said. Schoolcraft gave The News the names of 14 crime victims from notes he took at the precinct from late 2008 to October 2009. In interviews with The News, five crime victims appeared to back up Schoolcraft's allegations. Of the remaining nine, four could not be reached, three believed cops responded correctly to their crimes and two initially told The News they had problems with the precinct but could not be reached for further clarification. Brooklyn mom Marbel Rentas said she was happy with 81st Precinct cops after her son was robbed of his Sidekick phone on a basketball court in October. "They didn't arrest no one, but the police drove him home afterward. They were nice to him," Rentas said. The case, a source said, was correctly classified as a robbery.

The five people who said their cases were mishandled included:
  • A man who said he was beaten bloody and robbed - and then told by cops he was the victim of a "lost property" case because he didn't get a good look at the suspects.
  • Another man who said he was berated by the precinct's commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, for trying to report a stolen car.
  • Another stolen car victim who said it took her a month to get a complaint taken - and that happened only when a supervisor realized she was a retired traffic agent.
  • An elderly man who said cops would not take a report when he was burglarized, saying there was "no evidence."
  • A 65-year-old woman who said she was crying with anger and frustration when she could not get precinct cops to take a report about her stolen car.
"It's just not right," said Schoolcraft, a seven-year member of the NYPD. "They are taking advantage of people. A lot of [crime victims] don't know any better. "They think this is the way things are done."

Poor work review

Schoolcraft has big problems of his own. He received a poor work review early last year - his supervisors cited his need for "constant supervision" - and was stripped of his gun and put on desk duty in April after telling an NYPD doctor he thought work stress caused his stomach and chest pains. Schoolcraft did not have any paperwork from his NYPD medical evaluation. He has been suspended since Halloween, when supervisors said he left work an hour early without permission. Police went to his Queens home that night to bring him back to the precinct stationhouse, where he faced suspension for going AWOL. Schoolcraft refused to accompany the cops, and the confrontation apparently escalated. He was deemed unstable and committed to a psychiatric unit at Jamaica Center for more than six days against his will, he said. It is unclear what happened in those six days or exactly why Schoolcraft was committed. Doctors who examined him at Jamaica Hospital did not respond to requests for comment. Schoolcraft said he has been unable to obtain his medical records from them. The NYPD confirmed Schoolcraft was taken to Jamaica Hospital and admitted for psychiatric observation. "We don't comment on medically related issues," said NYPD Inspector Edward Mullen. A person familiar with a psychiatric assessment of Schoolcraft done after his release from the hospital said the officer is perhaps too naive and idealistic but does not appear to be unbalanced. "This is not someone talking to himself on the street," the source said. "There's just a naiveté there. He doesn't understand the police culture. Is he insane? Is he psychotic? Is he manic? Absolutely not. "I think he can be believed." Schoolcraft has not returned to duty and lives with his father upstate. He insisted the NYPD is trying to make him look bad because of his complaints about the precinct's recordkeeping practices. Mauriello, the precinct's commanding officer since 2008, called Schoolcraft's allegations "atrocious" before referring all inquires to the NYPD's press office. Schoolcraft, a Texas native, joined the NYPD in 2002 because he wanted to serve after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He was assigned to the 81st Precinct in 2003, and while downgrading felonies was a regular occurrence, he said, it did not "get out of control" until Mauriello took over.

Sharp decline in crime

Over the past two years, the crime rate - a measure of the number of seven major felonies in a precinct - has fallen about 17% in the 81st Precinct, compared with a dip of 12% citywide. From 2003 to 2007, the rate in the precinct fell at a much smaller pace, and even increased slightly one year. Schoolcraft faces a department trial on the charges from Halloween- and he has repeatedly refused to report to Police Headquarters to answer those charges. He has filed a notice of claim with the city controller, indicating he plans to sue the city. Schoolcraft said he no longer trusts the NYPD, even though he is a reluctant whistleblower. "I wanted to become a police officer, chase the bad guys, and I thought the NYPD was the best police department in the world," Schoolcraft said. "I never thought it would turn out like this."

Monday, February 1, 2010

When Cops Go Bad...

When a cop goes bad, good cops suffer
Recent scandals cast unfair light on police, some say
The Pioneer Press by Frederick Melo - January 31, 2010

On a chilly day in early January, Blair Anderson received phone calls from five or six friends in law enforcement, all wanting to know if he'd seen the news in Minneapolis. Anderson, commander of the Dakota County Jail in Hastings, certainly had. Minneapolis police officer Timothy Carson had been arrested for allegedly holding up a Wells Fargo bank in Apple Valley. He remains a suspect in 10 other holdups across the metro. "It was pretty much the same call: 'Can you believe it?' " Anderson said. "I mean, this is the stuff that gives cops a bad name. Carson has not been convicted. But his case is one of several around the Twin Cities giving cops a black eye, from officers accused of planting a gun to the Metro Gang Strike Force mishandling evidence and money. When those entrusted with upholding the law are caught breaking it, the stress on a department can linger for years. "We saw it after Rodney King," said Dakota County Chief Sheriff's Deputy David Bellows, referring to the incident of police brutality, caught on video, that led to race riots in Los Angeles in 1992. "You'd make a traffic stop — and it didn't have to be a person of color — and they'd say, 'Look what happened with Rodney King.' " "When (officers) do go into the house on a call, people associate them with those officers that are involved in any kind of a criminal act," Bellows said. "And that's hard." State Rep. Cy Thao, DFL-St. Paul, said many of his Hmong constituents bristled after a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed a Hmong teenager in July 2006. Fong Lee's family claimed the teenager had been unarmed, and their attorney later alleged that police planted the gun found next to Fong Lee's body.

An internal affairs investigation, a civil court and a state grand jury cleared officer Jason Andersen of wrongdoing, but he was later fired for an undisclosed ethics violation that police said was not related to the Fong Lee shooting. (Shortly before Andersen's firing, a Sherburne County prosecutor dropped a domestic assault case against him, citing lack of evidence.) "It adds more fuel to the fire of minorities not trusting police in the first place," said Cy Thao, who represents St. Paul's Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. "The trust between the Hmong community and the police is not broken, but people started questioning." Farmington Police Chief Brian Lindquist said scandals tend to be replayed for weeks or even months afterward. A resentful drunken-driving suspect might lash out at police by bringing up an incident that's been in the news; a man arrested for domestic assault will poke fun at the cops by talking about a corruption case. That, he can live with. The personal letdown is a lot harder. "It bothers you that there is a stain on the badge, that someone you trusted, someone you let into the group, has put you in this position, has made every other cop the subject of scrutiny," Lindquist said. "That hurts."

In 2005, Farmington police officer Jermey Buss, then 28, was sentenced to four months in jail and up to eight years of probation after admitting he'd had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old high school student he met on a traffic stop. "Is it hard to regain public trust after that? Oh yeah," Lindquist said. "When a cop gets a DUI, that's newsworthy. Any other group — a dentist, a doctor, it isn't. We live under different standards." The federal charges against Carson, 28, of Rosemount, accuse him of robbing a Wells Fargo bank in Apple Valley and holding three tellers at gunpoint. Carson, a member of the Minneapolis Police Department's SWAT team and a former military police officer and Washington County jail guard, remains a suspect in a string of armed robberies involving a man in a dark jacket and ski mask. On Jan. 19, the Hennepin County attorney's office charged him with five holdups in Minneapolis. The Dakota County attorney's office is reviewing potential cases in Rosemount, Apple Valley and Eagan. Sgt. Jesse Garcia, a Minneapolis police spokesman, characterized the Carson case as something far out of the norm for the state's largest police department, and he praised his department for its swift action and transparency. "Whether you believe it or not, there was a lot of outrage within the department, because it did put us in a bad light," Garcia said. "We have close to 900 officers out there that are doing not a heck of a job, but one hell of a job."

The group Communities United Against Police Brutality, however, plans to point to Carson's arrest as the latest evidence that Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan has failed to respond to public concerns and crack down on officer misconduct. Michelle Gross, the group's president, said her members plan to attend Dolan's reappointment hearing before the Minneapolis City Council with what's likely to be a long, unflattering report on his tenure. She said it will list incidents of police brutality that never resulted in firings or serious discipline. "We have many concerns," Gross said. Dolan has said the rate of terminations and resignations has tripled under his leadership. "When we contacted the Minneapolis Police Department, we got nothing but cooperation," said Apple Valley Police Chief Scott Johnson, whose department cracked the Carson case. "You can't judge an entire police department based on the actions of one officer," Johnson said. "Minneapolis has got an excellent police department — a lot of very fine and ethical men and women." Sometimes, however, scandals help bring down entire units or police departments. Last year, the multijurisdictional Metro Gang Strike Force disbanded after a scathing report from the legislative auditor. Another independent review found that up to 12 employees engaged in misconduct or criminal acts by seizing cash, cars and jewelry for personal use. The blow-up has cast a long shadow over two dozen state-funded task forces set up to investigate drug crimes across jurisdictions, making requests for continued state and federal funding tough to present to lawmakers. "The word 'strike force' is almost a bad word (now)," Bellows said. "And that's not fair, because there's a good deal of great work being done." In April, Elko-New Market voted to eliminate its police department, citing budget concerns and allegations of racial profiling. An officer was accused of driving around for months with a stuffed toy monkey hanging in the back of his squad car, and complaints filed against him by former officers accused him of using racist language and telling them to single out black drivers. The police department, consisting of a chief and one part-time officer, was later reinstated. In September, former Minneapolis police officer Michael David Roberts was sentenced to a year in federal prison for unauthorized use of a police computer and tax charges. Roberts allegedly failed to report $100,000 he'd earned from working off-duty security details, mostly at Pizza Luce. He was paid in cash. Charges also accused him of sharing confidential police records with a reputed gangster, Taylor Winthorpe Trump, feeding interest in Trump's cozy relationship with authorities and the overall use of paid informants.


Popular culture sometimes refers to the "blue wall" or the "thin blue line," a colloquialism for the tight fraternity of law enforcement. The line also suggests that fraternity is what prevents society from descending into chaos. The fear, however, that the guardians are corruptible has peppered literature and political works since Plato. In 2004, retired Minneapolis police officer Michael Quinn penned the book "Walking with the Devil: The Police Code of Silence," alleging that police corruption and excessive use of force were rampant in his department in the 1980s. Quinn believes honest cops sometimes turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of their brothers and sisters in law enforcement because they know that in a life-or-death situation, it's only those peers they can count on. "It just makes your heart sick ... because so many cops work so hard to do this job the right way," Quinn said. He recalls reporting two officers who kicked in the door of a suspected drug dealer's house without a search warrant. Nothing ever came of his complaint because the dealer, who had an illegal firearm with him, was later convicted. In the eyes of his superior officers, the successful outcome seemed to justify the illegal entry. But what happens next time, when the door being kicked in belongs to an innocent person? "How do you go in there and tell people, 'Our guys are good guys, you've got to trust us,' when your guys are being charged with sexual assault or robbery?" he said. "All it takes is one or two acts, and there's a ripple effect." Robin Toma is executive director of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, established in the wake of the notorious "Zoot Suit" riots of 1943, when 1,000 white sailors clashed with Hispanic youth for three days. Fast-forward to 1992, when a mostly white jury acquitted three Los Angeles police officers of savagely beating Rodney King, a black man, with their batons, an incident famously caught on video. Following the verdict, L.A. erupted into six days of race rioting in which 53 people were killed; property damage was estimated at $1 billion. Toma said the LAPD still has its struggles, but its reputation in the community has progressed light-years, in part because of increases in minority hiring and leadership changes. The department seems more open to admitting mistakes and addressing them, he said, and senior officers are a constant presence at civic meetings. "The way our brains work, we develop perceptions and opinions based on exposure," Toma said. "If we have very rare contact with the police department and the only time we hear of them is in terms of scandal, then that's going to color our views of them." Anderson, the Dakota County Jail commander, who is black, said public safety is an honorable calling, but police scandals like the one involving Carson do nothing to improve relations with the public or close the yawning gap between law enforcement and minority communities. Growing up in Detroit, he saw "a bunker mentality with the citizenry and the police, this us versus them," he said. "There are plenty of people out here who are ready to point the finger and say, 'See, I told you so.' There are people saying something like that, whether they're right or wrong. "I think cops and people of color are alike in this way: We're the only groups that are judged by the worst element in our group," Anderson said. "There's this small-minded tendency, this myopia, to think that we're all that way." Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172.