Report Shows More Cops Involved in Illegal ActivitiesJack Nelson and Ronald J. Ostrow, 14 Jun 1998, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - In greater numbers and in more places than ever, police are succumbing to the temptations posed by huge sums of cash from illegal drugs.
Official corruption, which has raged for years in the nation's big cities, is spreading to the hinterlands. So rampant has it become that the number of federal, state and local officials in federal prisons has grown fivefold over the last four years, increasing from 107 in 1994 to 548 today, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Although only a tiny fraction of the nation's law-enforcement officials are behind bars, the increase in their numbers reflects a harsh reality: Despite the government's "war on drugs," the problem is defying concerted efforts to stamp it out.
"It's a big problem across the country, in big towns and small towns, and it's not getting any better," said Michael Hoke, superintendent for internal affairs of the Chicago Police Department. "Dope dealing is probably the only growth industry in Chicago's inner city," he said, and some police officers can't resist the temptation to siphon off a share for themselves.
Hoke was head of the force's narcotics unit until three years ago, when officials, suspecting that some officers were deeply involved in the drug rackets, put him in charge of internal affairs to begin an investigation that is still under way.
"So far, we've sent 15 police to the penitentiary," Hoke said. "And we're not done yet."
Hoke and police officials of 51 other major cities are meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho, this weekend to review a new report, "Misconduct to Corruption," compiled by officials from 15 cities with assistance from the FBI.
The authors of the report sent questionnaires to all 52 cities. Of the 37 that responded, all acknowledged continuing problems with general corruption and misconduct in 1997.
Altogether, they reported 187 felony arrests of officers and 265 misdemeanor arrests. Eighty-five officers were charged with illicit use of drugs, 118 with theft, 148 with domestic violence and nine with driving under the influence of alcohol.
The report cited several cases of officers' robbing drug dealers. In Indianapolis, one of two officers charged with murdering a drug dealer during a robbery admitted that they had been robbing drug dealers for four years.
A big-city police chief, the report concluded, "can expect, on average, to have 10 officers charged per year with abuse of police authority, five arrested for a felony, seven for a misdemeanor, three for theft and four for domestic violence. By any estimation, these numbers are unacceptable."
Los Angeles, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans and Savannah, Ga., are among cities that have experienced major law-enforcement scandals involving illegal drugs in recent years. And many smaller communities, especially in the South and Southwest, have been hit by drug-related corruption in police or sheriff's departments.
"You can't just look at the numbers" in measuring the effect on the community of "a police officer abusing citizens through corruption," said Neil Gallagher, deputy assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division. "Corruption erodes public confidence in government."
Gallagher, as special agent in charge of the New Orleans FBI office several years ago, directed an investigation that led to convictions of 11 officers and a sweeping overhaul of the city's police department. Underlying causes of corruption there, he said, ranged from "severely underpaying officers to lack of training, poor selection of officers and very little command and control."
New Orleans is widely recognized today for its reforms - a sharp increase in hiring standards, pay increases of up to 25 percent and a reorganization and restaffing of the internal affairs unit.
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