Sunday, April 17, 2011
400 cops could be charged for getting rid of tickets
As many as 400 cops could face disciplinary charges for fixing tickets in a widening corruption scandal, The Post has learned.
Two NYPD lawyers were recently transferred from the department's legal bureau to its advocate's office, which handles departmental trials against officers, and told to expect hundreds of cases, according to a source in the unit.
"This is huge," said the source. "That's a lot of cops all in one shot. I've never heard of something like that before, this many police officers charged in one period."
"It was a systemic thing," said another source familiar with the probe.
The department will charge cops internally in all 12 Bronx precincts -- and possibly other boroughs -- for allegedly helping out friends and family by "losing" paperwork and missing court dates.
In turn, parking tickets, moving violations and quality-of-life summonses would be dismissed in court or vanish before ever getting near a judge.
Officers found guilty in department trials could get fired, lose benefits, or be reprimanded or warned.
Those who tampered with documents might face criminal charges of obstruction or filing a false instrument, while cops who took money could be hit with felonies such as bribery.
The NYPD lawyers plan to go after union delegates and fixers most aggressively, some of whom some could face criminal charges as well, the source said. Officers who simply sought favors from the fixers would likely get lighter punishment.
A Bronx grand jury is separately weighing criminal charges against about 40 cops accused of taking bribes to make the violations go away.
The investigation started in 2008 when a Bronx cop suspected of selling drugs was heard on a wiretap asking a union rep to take care of a summons.
That officer was stripped of his gun and badge and placed on modified duty. Internal-affairs detectives then spent "months and months" secretly recording other cops discussing ticket fixing, said one source.
Sources familiar with the probe described how the system worked.
If a person got a summons and knew a cop who was willing to help, the officer would typically reach out to one of the known ticket-fixers in the precinct where the summons was issued.
The fixers, many of them union delegates, could get access to copies of the summons paperwork and grab them, or ask others to do so, before the tickets were sent out to adjudicating agencies like DMV or the Parking Violations Bureau.
"It generally takes a day or two" for the precinct to send out the paperwork, the source said, and during that time, the ticket copies could be trashed without drawing much attention, particularly during overnight shifts.
In other cases, a fixer could simply change a digit or number for the driver's license plate -- rendering the parking ticket invalid, since the plate would not match the registration.
For speeding tickets or other moving violations, another method involved the ticketing officer agreeing not to show up in court. But that approach is riskier for the cop, said one source.
"Generally, if you miss court, that stands out, and they'll take time from you. And it raises up the severity of what you're doing."
The NYPD denied that the probe involved 400 cops, but declined to say what the number was.