It's difficult to have to announce for the second time this week that police officers have been arrested for misconduct. These misdeeds tarnish the good name and reputation of the vast majority of police officers who perform their duties honestly and often at risk of their own personal safety.
I want to thank District Attorney Bob Johnson and his staff for their steadfast commitment to this important investigation, and NYPD Chief of Internal Affairs Charles Campisi and his investigators for uncovering the wrongdoing revealed in the indictments and for the comprehensive, sophisticated investigation that he and his team conducted.
It involved intelligence gathering, the debriefing of criminal suspects; integrity testing and the use of court-ordered wiretaps on dozens of telephone lines involving more than 10,000 telephone calls.
The uncovering by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau of ticket fixing also exposed weaknesses in the system that allowed it to be compromised in the first place. Without waiting for this lengthy investigation to end, we acted immediately to shore up those vulnerabilities.
As a result of this case, we instituted reforms to guarantee the integrity of the system. We began instituting those reforms over a year ago, long before the investigation concluded. Part and parcel of those reforms was our introduction of the monitoring of court or administrative hearings where summonses are adjudicated.
In May of this year, an IAB court monitoring unit was established to monitor officers' failure to appear or other potential means that might be employed to affect the outcome in court. In addition, in May 2010, the police department instituted an electronic summons tracking system to capture the distribution, the issuance and return of summonses from commands to the final adjudicating agency. There's accountability and documentation in each step along the way.
Training began in July 2010, and the system was formally introduced a month later. Bar coding of summonses was introduced, and we're now photographing original summonses to document any subsequent attempt to doctor them.
While it was important to institute these safeguards we ultimately rely on officers' personal integrity to uphold the law and to do their jobs impartially without fear or favor. Police officers have had, and continue to have, latitude and discretion in issuing summonses. But that discretion does not extend, and was never intended to extend to the destruction or altering of official records, such as summonses, or their testimony after the fact.
Those actions are crimes under the law and can't be glossed over as "courtesies" or as part of an acceptable culture. They are not. Those who try to rationalize them as such are kidding themselves, especially if they think the public finds it acceptable.
Members of the public don't accept favoritism. They resent it, as well they should. The public entrusts to police officers special authority. And that trust must not be violated. The high standard applies even when the favoritism does not result in any monetary reward or consideration for the officer, as was often the case in this investigation.
The District Attorney talked about how this case was started. The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau began the investigation of an anonymous tip on December 1, 2008. It alleged that marijuana and counterfeit DVDs were being sold from a barbershop in which Police Officer Jose Ramos had an interest.
From the outset, Internal Affairs investigators employed an operational model known by the acronym "EDIT," it stands for: Enforcement, Debriefing, Intelligence and Testing.
With enforcement, IAB arrests the suspect known to be working with the police officer. IAB investigators then debrief the suspect to learn all it can about any police corruption involved in the case. It continues to develop intelligence, and then conducts integrity tests with the suspected officer as the target.
In this instance, IAB introduced into the case an undercover officer who knew how to cut hair. He ended up working at the barber shop under investigation and was able to document the marijuana sales and other illegal activity there.
Later, through integrity tests, Ramos is alleged to have faked an arrest, engaged in the theft of $20,000 in another IAB sting, and in the transportation of what Ramos believed was a shipment of heroin for a fictitious drug dealer. IAB investigators were wrapping up their investigation of Ramos when they heard him on a court-authorized wiretap asking another officer for assistance in fixing a ticket. That led to a broader investigation, in which IAB subsequently uncovered the incident in which officers covered-up an assault as a favor to someone known to one of the officers. The assailant in that case was arrested this morning as the District Attorney related.
These were serious offenses. Our Internal Affairs Bureau was tenacious in its pursuit of this case. They followed the wrongdoing wherever it led. That's the strength of a robust Internal Affairs Bureau.
The Police Department tries not to hire its problems. We look to recruit only the best; those with strong moral values. But as with any agency with 50,000 employees - 35,000 of them police officers - even a small fraction engaged in wrongdoing will produce an unacceptable number.
That's why the Internal Affairs Bureau is essential. It's there so that the relative few who follow temptation or who were flawed to begin with do not escape detection.
Exposing police misconduct is a painful process - but a necessary one. It is necessary for the continued health and reputation of the entire police department and for the vast majority of police officers, who I mentioned earlier work hard and honestly every day, often putting their lives on the line in the process. We owe it to them and to the public to root out corruption, without hesitation, wherever and whenever it occurs.
That was accomplished in this case, and I want to commend all those who worked so hard to bring it to a successful conclusion.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times