A group of Philadelphia narcotics officers repeatedly robbed and assaulted the drug suspects they were supposed to be investigating, engaging in a campaign of brutality that lasted nearly six years, federal authorities said Wednesday.
Five of the six officers could face life in prison if convicted of the slew of corruption charges unveiled Wednesday by Edward Hanko, special agent in charge of the FBI's Philadelphia field office.
“The crimes alleged here are indefensible,” Hanko said in a statement. “That many of the victims were drug dealers, not Boy Scouts, is irrelevant. Police officers are sworn to uphold the law -- and to do it ‘by the book.’ This corrupt group chose to make their own rules. Now they will have to answer for it."
Each officer had been with the Philadelphia Police Department for nearly 20 years, according to a criminal complaint made public on Wednesday. They were identified as Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.
The crew routinely stole personal items and money from suspects, including a safe containing $80,000 from an alleged drug dealer, the FBI said.
The list of abuses laid out in the 42-page complaint details a half-decade of corruption, including several examples that sound as though they were ripped from a mob drama.
The first allegation involves a February 2006 incident in which the officers are accused of stealing $12,000 from a man at gunpoint and holding him prisoner in a hotel room for several days, the complaint said.
One year later, during an illegal search of a suspect's home, the officers held a suspect by his ankles off the edge of an 18th-floor balcony while demanding information, according to the complaint.
The officers also participated in a game in which they "would receive points for different types of physical abuse that they could inflict on subjects" and hid their misdeeds by doctoring police reports and case files, the complaint said.
Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said the officers' alleged actions don't represent the dedication he saw from police who worked around the clock in recent days to catch suspected carjackers linked to the deaths of three children last week.
"We will continue to be transparent; we will continue to pursue those involved in corruption and remove those who don’t belong in this department," Ramsey said.
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