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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.

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