Last month sixteen cops were arrested for their alleged roles in a wide-spread ticket-fixing ring within the NYPD, and some -- including Eric Adams, a state senator from Brooklyn and former city police captain, and Ernie Naspretto, a Daily News reporter and a former city police caption -- attempt to downplay the charges as mere professional courtesy rather than egregious criminal behavior.
Although some apparent corruption apologists within the NYPD may euphemistically refer to ticket-fixing as extending a "professional courtesy," it sounds to those of us on the outside like they're unapologetically admitting "we take care of our own."
This cavalier attitude that some are more equal than others under the law has the public fuming including Pace Professor of Law Bennett L. Gershman who argues that the accused and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association through which many tickets allegedly were fixed should have been charged with racketeering:
In organizing, directing, and participating in the ticket-fixing conspiracy -- during which the crimes of larceny, obstruction of justice, criminal solicitation, and fraud were committed -- the union, its leaders and other high-ranking officers should have been charged with racketeering. * * * [A]s one examines the allegations of the widespread pattern of the ticket-fixing conspiracy alleged in the indictments, the conduct most assuredly is not "professional courtesy" -- it is a flagrant misuse of power by law enforcement and it involves blatant corruption. Given the length of time it allegedly has lasted, and its reliance on the union for its success, it is also racketeering.
The failure of many police even to comprehend the seriousness of the ticket-fixing allegations perhaps is emblematic of a culture of corruption within the NYPD, and could explain a broad array of more serious misconduct allegations that has plagued the department in recent months: planting drugs on innocent people to meet arrest quotas, covering up crimes in some cases and making false arrests in other cases as favors to friends, and smuggling guns, shaking down drug dealers or robbing others for fun and profit. After all, the failure to see the bright line between right and wrong -- particularly for someone otherwise sworn to uphold the law -- makes it easy for a cop to tumble down the slippery slope of wrongdoing. Indeed, many of those accused in the ticket-fixing case are further implicated in more serious offenses, and that is not likely a coincidence.
The pattern of corruption which is emerging from the NYPD raises "questions about the department’s ability to police itself, said nearly a dozen current and former prosecutors who have handled corruption cases, as well as some current and former Internal Affairs supervisors and investigators" as reported by The New York Times, and several politicians now have called upon Mayor Bloomberg "to create an independent commission to investigate what they said was systemic corruption" as reported by Rob Harris for The New York Times.
The public faith in government institutions has been eroding for some time, and if the police can no longer command the respect of the people then the country might as well degenerate into a state of anarachy. Frankly, on some days it appears we already are there.