Not enough dope in the evidence room in Berkeley, too much dope in the locker room in Baltimore, and too much dope in the jail in Pittsburgh this week, and a couple of coke-peddling Pennsylvania cops just to round things out. While we tend to focus on individual cases of corruption, this week the rot has spread and the stench takes on institutional form, with departments on both coasts having big problems and a big city jail where it seems like everyone was in on the illicit action.
In Berkeley, California, Police Chief Doug Hambleton last week ordered a criminal investigation into how police store and track seized drugs after an audit found unspecified problems with the way drugs are stored. Police have refused to say when the audit was done, why, or what it uncovered. While no officers have yet been accused of wrongdoing, Hambleton ordered the investigation "to determine if any improper or illegal conduct may have occurred," according to the Berkeley Police Department. Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff told the Associated Press his office had appointed an inspector and prosecutor to join the investigation into what he called "irregularities" and "potential criminal violations."
In Baltimore, Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm attempted Monday to stem the bleeding in a scandal involving one of the city's police "flex" units. The specialized flying squads are tasked with various crime-fighting initiatives, and the unit in question specializes in drug investigations. Two weeks ago, one of the squad's members, Officer Jemini Jones, 28, was arrested on charges he detained a 22-year-old woman, took her to the Southwest Baltimore station house and forced her to have sex in order to win her freedom. The woman and an 18-year-old friend were then given bags of marijuana and released, according to police affidavits. Two other officers are also charged with rape in that case. In a subsequent search of the squad's offices, police found cocaine and marijuana in officers' lockers, and police affidavits say officers in the squad planted drugs to make arrests. The entire squad, including its commander, Sgt. Robert Smith, has been suspended, and Baltimore prosecutors are saying hundreds of drug and other cases are now in jeopardy. Hamm and Mayor Martin O'Malley announced Monday that from now on, officers wanting to join the unit will have to pass a polygraph test and a drug test and that officers will be rotated out after three years. Meanwhile, the investigations continue, including one announced this week by the FBI.
In Pittsburgh, four current and two former Allegheny County Jail employees were arrested Tuesday and charged with smuggling drugs into the jail and selling them for several years. That's only the latest problem at the jail, where two guards and a jail doctor were arrested for participating in an Oxycontin distribution ring in December and 13 male guards were arrested earlier in a sex-for-favors scandal, according to the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office. Another former jail guard and a federal prison inmate were expected to be arrested this week on the drug smuggling charges. The jail guards face various charges of selling marijuana, Ecstasy, heroin, cocaine, and Oxycontin, as well as a standard drug distribution conspiracy charge.
In Vandergrift, Pennslvania, police officers Robert Wright and Eric Decroo were arrested this week on cocaine distribution charges. In a statement, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett said the officers were using and selling cocaine at Pittsburgh area bars. Wright allegedly attempted to sell cocaine to an undercover officer last August, while Decroo allegedly told another officer he and Wright were peddling the powder. The dynamic duo face up to 35 years in prison.