It was a toss-up this week. The story of the two former Oakland police narcotics officers on trial for hanging out in a whorehouse while on duty, with a car full of unaccounted for cash, drugs and stolen guns sitting outside is certainly worthy, but since the Oakland Police Department has already garnered considerable DRCNet notice for its shady exploits, the Oakland narcs must yield to two of their East Coast brethren.
In the City of Brotherly Love, two former Philadelphia Police officers went on trial Wednesday for framing drug suspects, but the spotlight will also shine on the Police Department, as evidence developed for this trial shows that not only the officers involved but their supervisors routinely ignored anti-corruption measures enacted after the city's most recent corruption scandal.
Marcellus Robinson and John Thompson are charged with perjury in the framing of one arrestee, although others arrested by the dynamic duo have already successfully sued the city in federal court. Philadelphia paid out $100,000 to settle one such suit last month. An additional 60 drug arrests by Robinson and Thompson have been dismissed.
The pair of uniformed police officers, who were not assigned to drug duties and who, by department policy, were barred from participating in drug stakeouts or doing unsupervised surveillance operations, made a large number of drug arrests. Robinson would typically claim that he had seen drug sales from a "confidential location," then the pair would swoop in for an arrest.
But their house of cards came tumbling down when a defense attorney for one of the men they arrested, Angel Rodriguez, acquired police tapes that showed that while Robinson was allegedly watching Rodriguez sell drugs, he was actually pursuing a gunman in another case. And although both officers testified that Rodriguez had drugs on him, he was not carrying any. Instead, they used drugs found in a nearby backyard as evidence.
It's nothing new in Philadelphia. In the 39th District scandal a few short years ago, uniformed police regularly rounded up and searched young minority men, according to one of the officers involved. Steven Brown, now serving time in federal prison, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that if they found drugs, they would arrest the men and lie to say they'd witnessed them selling them.
"This is part of the war on drugs that unfortunately is not often recognized," University of Pennsylvania law professor David Rudovsky told the Inquirer. "These officers were involved in so many cases in which they were violating internal police regulation, and nobody paid any attention."