The Mollen Commission's main recommendation was for the creation of a permanent outside watchdog body with the power to oversee NYPD's own Internal Affairs Division and launch its own independent investigations. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and police commissioner William Bratton are opposed to the Mollen plan and Bratton says he can clean up corruption among the NYPD's 30,000 officers without giving up any authority to outsiders.
But any effort to clean up the force from within has to face the resistance of the force to change. One form of resistance to change among officers is the so-called blue wall of silence where officers refuse to testify against others about corruption. The Mollen commission investigators managed to overcome the reluctance to testify by treating cops as any other drug dealers, offering them deals in their sentencing. The Mollen commission also relied on a few honest cops who came forward to reveal corruption often concealed by their superiors. These honest cops often found themselves pariahs in the department facing threats and possible death.
Attorney William Kunstler, who among others successfully defended accused cop shooter Larry Davis, is now representing one officer whose come under attack for cooperating with the Mollen commission. Detective Jeff Baird is an IAD investigator who exposed how police commanders covered up corruption cases. Because of his cooperation Baird says he's been punished by the department and gotten death threats from his colleagues.
"They told him he was going to be put out on the street for every raid," says Kunstler, "And someone else threatened that they would reveal his identity (to drug dealers) and get him killed." Kunstler says Baird was denied a promised promotion, transferred to another city agency and is forbidden from speaking to the press. Kunstler's partner, Ron Kuby says Baird's career has been "effectively ended" adding that "this is the way the Police Department rewards an honest man."
Baird won the enmity of the NYPD because of testimony stemming from his intimate knowledge of IAD record keeping. Testifying before the Mollen commission as "Mr. G" -- Baird helped reveal the secret filing system used to conceal sensitive investigations from the District Attorney, the media and the public. When the Mollen commission first asked for all IAD files it was unaware of something called the "Tickler File" that was withheld from the public. It was a tip from IAD officers that revealed the existence of the files.
In its final report the Mollen commission wrote that "approximately 40 corruption cases over the past five years have never been recorded in official records or sent to prosecutors". The report went on: "many of the Tickler File corruption cases were quite serious in nature, ranging from sale and use of narcotics, protecting drug dealers, accepting payoffs from organized-crime figures, to perjury and leaking confidential information." Mollen conditions investigators say IAD was more interested in preserving the departments public image than digging up corruption.
In one case a group of officers from the 9th Precinct on the Lower East Side of Manhattan used a drug dealers storefront as an on-duty clubhouse. According to the storeowner, testifying before the Mollen hearings as "Mr. X", more than a dozen cops spent their days taking cocaine, drinking and carousing with local dealers. Mr. X testified that he informed investigators that the group of officers hanging out in his store got together with local dealers to plan a fourth of July party at one of the officers Staten Island home. The party was billed as a "BYOD", slang for a "bring your own drugs." According to Mr. X, the officer hosting the planned shindig bought an ounce of cocaine for the affair. Meanwhile Mr. X had been busted for drugs and was secretly working with investigators. He testified informing IAD of the Staten Island coke party and a raid was planned. But according to Mollen commission members the local police commanders were opposed and leaked plans for the raid and the party and a chance to bust dozens of dirty cops and their drug connections was missed.
One of the most troubling aspects to the Mollen commission hearing was the connection between corruption, police brutality and racism. One cop, Bernard Cawley, testified he was groomed by precinct commanders as a head-knocker and soon became known throughout the South Bronx as the "mechanic" because as a thug he would "tune people up." Cawley was asked if he "beat up people you arrested? "No." he said, "We just beat people up in general. If they're on the street, hanging around drug locations. It was a show of force." Cawley told the commission he and other cops had no interest in stopping drugs. They protected high level dealers for pay, robbed others, and sold drugs they confiscated back on the streets.
The stories harken back to the late 1960's when the Black Panthers confronted heroin dealers on the streets of Harlem. It was the general belief at the time was that the heroin flooding into the inner cities was an assault on Black youth newly awakened to political action by the black power movement.
Dhoruba bin Wahad was a young activist who led a band of Black radicals who raided Harlem drug dens with ties to corrupt cops and dumped the confiscated drugs down sewers in front of the community. Dhoruba was also a member of the New York City chapter of the Black Panther Party and one of the Panther 21 activists who were acquitted of political crimes in the early 1970's.
One of Dhoruba's anti-drug raids was foiled by cops who were protecting the Harlem heroin dealers and a gun used in the raid was falsely connected to the shooting of two cops. After doing 19 years in prison, Dhoruba was released, because the District Attorney had concealed evidence that would have freed him. The fight isn't over and Dhoruba is still fighting the possibility of a re-imprisonment by a vindictive DA.
In another case of police corruption a conservative, middle aged military veteran demanded Lower East Side community board three tell the ninth police precinct to remove the brass plaques on the precinct house honoring two cops allegedly killed in the line of duty more than twenty years ago. According to the resident the two cops, officers Gregory Foster and Rocco Laurie, were themselves notorious drug dealers. According to sources they were killed by Lower East Side drug dealers who were fed up with having to pay bribes to the officers. Not surprisingly the community board took no action.
Racism by police is often cited as a motivating factor along with greed for police corruption. In August a Black undercover transit cop, Desmond Robinson was shot four times in the back by police officer Peter Del-Debbio. Del-Debbio reportedly thought Robinson was a shotgun-toting teenager the cops were supposedly hunting down in the subway. Despite a visit to Robinson's hospital bedside by Mayor Giuliani Black cops saw the incident as another symbol of racism.
Phil Caruso, head of the Police Benevolent Association, told a news conference that the "perception" among the public and police officers was that Blacks commit most crimes. Caruso went on to say that shootings of Black undercover cops by white cops would probably occur again. Since 1940 more than twenty Black cops have been shot by white cops while not one white cop has ever been shot by a Black officer. The Mollen commission recommendations are currently under consideration by Giuliani and City Council speaker Peter Vallone.
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