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Connecting the Dots: It's Corruption, Too, Ray

July 7, 2008

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly continually reminds the public and his officers that New York City remains a prime target for terrorism.

He has hundreds of officers studying shadowy groups, trolling jihadi websites for patterns of trouble.

He has published a study of the "homegrown" terrorist threat and recently hired a psychiatrist and reputed terrorism expert as the department�s "scholar-in-residence."

He and Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen have been talking to a Paris-based Newsweek journalist for a book due out this fall to ensure Kelly�s terrorism-fighting exploits are memorialized.

If only Kelly were as vigilant about another threat to the NYPD - the department�s recurrent scourge of police corruption.

Here, Kelly shows no aggressiveness in rooting it out.

Rather, he downplays attempts to connect the dots so he won�t have to acknowledge there may be a systemic problem, hoping the public won�t catch on.

Well, watching these corruption arrests pile up over the past couple of years, Your Humble Servants fears something may be horribly amiss in the NYPD.

Since 2007, according to this column�s unofficial tabulation, nearly two dozen officers were arrested in drug-related crimes. If that doesn�t sound like a pattern, what does?

These included:

- Glen Smokler, a Manhattan cop from the 30th precinct, arrested in Suffolk County, L.I. and charged as part of a multi-million dollar marijuana ring that smuggled drugs from Canada. Suffolk County police made that arrest.

- Hubertus Vannes, a Queens cop from the 110th precinct, arrested in Nassau County, L.I., for allegedly selling guns he stole from the precinct.

- Narcotics cop James Calderon arrested for allegedly running a Bronx-based cocaine and heroin ring.

- Officer Joe Torrado sentenced to ten years in jail for helping his drug-dealer brother Edwin smuggle cocaine and marijuana from Mexico to the Bronx.

- Sergeant Roosevelt Green arrested by the feds on L.I. for allegedly running license plate checks through a police data base for a reputed drug kingpin, in return for gym clothes and sneakers.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Michael Marino was charged internally for possession of steroids after his name and those of 27 other Brooklyn cops surfaced during an investigation into a pharmacy that sold $8 million worth of steroids.

Moving into 2008...

In January, two cops were indicted by federal authorities for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine. One was an Internal Affairs sergeant.

Det. Luis Batsita, a 10-year veteran, was accused of passing confidential information to a drug dealer. Internal Affairs Sergeant Henry Conde was accused of obstructing justice for allegedly accessing IAB�s database and telling Batista he was under investigation.

Then there was the case of Queens detective Wayne Taylor, arrested for allegedly pimping a teenage girl.

A Queens narcotics detective was suspended after allegedly shooting at a parked car with an unarmed man and woman inside.

A Manhattan South narcotics sergeant was charged with reportedly stealing from the cash register of a nightclub.

A team of NYPD narcotics cops was under investigation after arresting four patrons of a Queens club for selling two bags of cocaine. A secret surveillance tape appeared to show that the cops never bought drugs from them.

Another Queens cop, Dennis Kim, and his partner were arrested for allegedly accepting cash and sexual favors in return for protecting a pimp�s brothel. An informant says that Kim and other 109th precinct cops planted drugs on suspects and stole cash during gambling raids. Kelly had praised Kim�s unit in 2004 for its arrest activity.

Sgt. Michael Arenella and Officer Jerry Bowen of the Brooklyn South narcotics unit were arrested for allegedly stealing cash and drugs from an undercover officer after they rewarded their informant with seized cash and drugs.

Two other Brooklyn South narcotics officers, Det. Sean Johnstone and Julio Alvarez, were charged with allegedly falsifying records after the disappearance of 11 bags of cocaine from a Coney Island dealer.

And don�t think that these corruption cases were confined to only the last year and a half.

Last year, over Kelly�s attempts to keep it secret, the Post published IAB�s 2006 corruption report. According to the Post, 114 cops were arrested for various acts of corruption.

These included:

- soliciting sex in exchange for overlooking crimes.

- stealing credit cards from the homes of the dead.

- hiring a hit man to commit a murder.

Also included:

- Arrests of officers rose 25 per cent from 91 to 144 over the previous year.

- The number of drug-using cops jumped 138 per cent, from 8 to 19.

- Fraud allegations involving insurance credit card and welfare swindles rose 85 per cent from 27 complaints to 50.

- The number of cops stripped of their guns and badges and placed on modified assignment jumped 55 per cent, from 137 to 212.

We look forward to the Post�s publication of IAB�s 2007 report. We can guarantee that Kelly won�t release it.

We conclude with the sentencing in the fall of 2006 of retired detective Thomas Rachko.

He received seven years in prison for stealing $800,000 from drug dealers while assigned to the Northern Manhattan Institute, a narcotics unit focusing on drug dealers in Harlem and Washington Heights.

Retired Lieutenant John McGuire, who had supervised Rachko and 40 other Upper Manhattan narcotics detectives, was sentenced to 14 months for stealing $110,000 in drug cash over three years.

Rachko�s partner, Det Julio Vasquez, was sentenced to six years for robbing drug dealers of $740,000 over a period of eight years. Six other current and former officers were implicated in the drug thefts.

Some of the crew had been captured on videotape three years earlier, stealing $169,000 from a drug-money courier. The videotape had not been made by the NYPD�s Internal Affairs Bureau but by a federal task force investigating unrelated money-laundering.

The feds watched as Rachko, who had retired the year before, and Vasquez � both wearing NYPD jackets � arrested the courier, whom the feds were tailing, and stole the $169,000 he was carrying.

The above all occurred in the 30th precinct territory. That�s the spot where 15 years before, a scandal known as the Dirty Thirty resulted in the convictions of three dozen officers on drug-related charges.

In New York City, police corruption scandals occur every 20 or so years. The seeds are being sown for another.

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt