From the Big Apple to the Heartland, prohibition-related police corruption knows no bounds. This week's stories include both corruption based on good, old-fashioned greed and the perhaps even more corrosive corruption of law enforcement officers abusing citizens and the law itself in their efforts to fight the drug war. It takes all kinds. Let's get to this week's roll of dishonor:
In Topeka, fall-out continues from the February arrest of then Topeka narcotics officer Thomas Pfortmiller. The Kansas narc was indicted on more than a hundred counts of misuse of public funds, theft, perjury, forgery and official misconduct for allegedly ripping off police drug-buy money. But it now appears that wasn't all Pfortmiller was grabbing. The Topeka Capital Journal reported Saturday that prosecutors in Shawnee County were forced to drop the charges in a major methamphetamine bust because the evidence -- 4.5 pounds of speed valued at between $30,000 and $200,000 -- had gone missing. According to police records, Pfortmiller checked it out of an evidence locker in 2003, supposedly to be taken to a federal laboratory, but it never arrived. Two other cases in which Pfortmiller apparently made off with the evidence have already been resolved, the newspaper reported.
In St. Louis, veteran police officer Reginald Williams is on trial for allegedly planting drugs on two people. The former "Officer of the Year" arrested a woman at a day care center for possession of crack cocaine, but underreported the amount he seized and instead claimed it was in the possession of two men he also arrested. Williams' arrest report "was fabrication from beginning to end," said Assistant US Attorney David Rosen as the case began. Sleazily enough, the framing of the pair did not come to light until Williams partner, former officer Terrell Carter, who has since left the profession and who has admitted repeatedly beating a handcuffed suspect in the case, ratted off Williams to the feds. Williams is being tried on two counts of deprivation of civil rights, three counts of obstruction of justice, one count of making a false statement to a federal official and one count of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. Several other officers have been granted immunity from prosecution in a trial that is certain to further tarnish the reputation of St. Louis' finest. Meanwhile, St. Louis prosecutors are reviewing other drug cases in which Williams was involved. Last year, one defendant was freed from prison after prosecutors determined Williams' testimony was no longer believable.
In Westwood, Massachusetts, police officer Kevin McCarthy was fired by town selectmen on March 28 for a series of misdeeds, including stealing drugs, threatening people, illegally searching cars and homes, and offering favors to suspects in exchange for drugs, the Boston Herald reported. McCarthy was fired after a 12-page report on accusations against him found "credible evidence" of misconduct. In one case, McCarthy allegedly took Oxycontin from an elderly woman's home during a medical call and when questioned, claimed it was a joke and that he intended to plant it on a fireman. In another case, McCarthy is alleged to have offered to overlook a minor traffic violation in exchange for drugs. In other cases, the report accuses McCarthy of conducting illegal searches, seizing drugs in traffic stops but failing to turn them in, and taking drugs from the police evidence locker. No word yet on whether criminal charges will be filed.
In New York City, a drug-related police scandal that emerged last year just keeps on going. In October, two NYPD Narcotics Division detectives, Julio Vasquez and Thomas Rachko, pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug dealers. The lax supervision revealed by their arrest and conviction led to 20 police officers being removed from a watchdog unit that was supposed to oversee the narcs. Those inspectors were disciplined for failing to properly oversee the overtime claimed by Brooklyn South narcs, some 70 of whom were found to have falsified their time sheets. On Monday, the New York Post reported that an additional 13 veteran supervisors and detectives -- virtually the entire "investigations unit" charged with scrutinizing narcotics, vice, and car crime cops -- have been slapped with departmental misconduct charges. The charges range from failing to supervise to misusing time to shaping their work schedules to fit their personal lives. Some supervisors were claiming overtime pay for work they did not do or otherwise cutting corners in their jobs. "They were supposed to be watching search warrants, checking on roll calls and watching overtime," a source told the Post. "But basically they were part of the problem, too."