CORRUPTION IN UNIFORM: THE DOWD CASE; Officer Flaunted Corruption, And His Superiors Ignored It

The article as it originally appeared.

July 7, 1994, Page 00001The New York Times Archives

Over a span of six years, the New York City Police Department received 16 complaints alleging that Police Officer Michael Dowd had been robbing drug dealers and dealing cocaine as part of a gang of corrupt officers in the 75th Precinct in the crime-ridden East New York section of Brooklyn.

That wasn’t all. The officer drove to work in a bright red Corvette and sometimes had a limousine pick him up at the station house for gambling trips to Atlantic City.

Yet in a clear example of what went wrong with the department’s handling of corruption cases, an investigative panel, the Mollen Commission, has concluded that senior officers repeatedly ignored allegations against Officer Dowd or blocked efforts to check them out in a deliberate policy to shield the department from scandal. Officer Dowd was eventually arrested by another department and is now facing sentencing on drug charges.

The senior officers’ behavior, the panel concluded, was influenced by the tone set at the top. The panel’s report, which will be released formally today, found that Benjamin Ward, who was the Police Commissioner when the first allegations were made against Officer Dowd in 1986, had been deeply shaken by a corruption scandal in another Brooklyn precinct at about the same time.

And it quoted Charles J. Hynes, who was then the state’s special prosecutor for police corruption, as saying that Mr. Ward was convinced that further revelations of police misconduct would cripple the department.

But whatever the motivation, the commission said, Mr. Ward and Daniel F. Sullivan, the chief of the Inspectional Services Bureau from 1986 to 1992, “by their action — or inaction — created an unmistakable policy to avoid corruption scandals.”

Mr. Ward said he could not comment on the report because he had not seen it. Chief Sullivan told the commission that his subordinates never informed him about Officer Dowd until 1992.

Because of the perceived policy, Mr. Dowd and his “crew” of crooked officers flaunted the illegal wheeling and dealing that brought some of them as much as $8,000 a week for not interfering with drug sales along with whatever cocaine they could steal as they broke down doors at drug dens and ripped off dealers.

And even though complaints about Officer Dowd had been submitted as early as 1986, his 1987 performance evaluation described him as an officer with “excellent street knowledge” who is “empathetic to the community.”

It concludes, “Good career potential.”

Officer Dowd, who is 32, was finally arrested in 1992, not by New York City Police investigators, but by officers from Suffolk County. They had intercepted telephone conversations between the officer and a small-time drug dealer. He is now in the Manhattan Correctional Center awaiting sentencing on drug charges. The revelations that grew out of Officer Dowd’s arrest led Mayor David N. Dinkins to announce the creation of the Mollen Commission on June 25, 1992.

The panel’s report concluded that for nearly a decade the Police Department had abandoned its responsibility to insure the honesty of its members.

Fearing that reports of corruption in their commands would damage their careers, senior officers looked the other way, the commission said. Information in internal investigations was deliberately fragmented, rather than woven together to form a pattern, and cases were closed well before all leads had been exhausted.

In the fall of 1992, a report issued by Police Commissioner Lee P. Brown blamed the department’s failure to intervene in the crimes of Mr. Dowd and his fellow rogue cops on a breakdown in procedures.

But the Mollen Commission said it concluded that the problem was “a willful effort” by commanders of the Internal Affairs Division, the principal anti-corruption unit, to impede the investigation. Internal Affairs, it said, treated allegations against Mr. Dowd as separate incidents and withheld critical information from another investigator.

“By doing so,” the commission said, “Internal Affairs commanders doomed any hope of a successful investigation of Dowd and other corrupt officers of the 75th Precinct.” Holdup Provides Example

One example of how police investigators failed to make the most of leads was the holdup on July 1, 1988, by three officers in the 75th Precinct of a grocery store that was serving as a front for drug dealing. Officer Walter Yurkiw and two others were charged with the crime after robbery investigators found the car they had used, with money and drugs visible inside, parked near the station house.

Three weeks after the robbery, the precinct commander, Deputy Inspector John Harkins, told Captain Thomas Callahan of the Internal Affairs Division that he had heard rumors that Mr. Dowd was also involved in the robbery, the commission said. A few days later, a precinct lieutenant told Internal Affairs that Mr. Dowd had reportedly been seen at a bar with Officer Yurkiw and the others shortly before the robbery.

About two weeks later, two drug dealers told an Internal Affairs officer that their drug organization was paying Mr. Dowd $3,000 to $4,000 a week, plus an ounce of cocaine, for protection.

All this came to nothing. Instead, the robbery investigation remained focused on the three officers.

A few months later, Officer Yurkiw’s girlfriend, who told the police she used cocaine, got in touch with Internal Affairs, saying that Officer Yurkiw had threatened to kill her unless she provided an alibi for him in the grocery store robbery. She also told Internal Affairs about Mr. Dowd and others at the precinct.

An Internal Affairs officer reported that the woman’s “credibility and allegiances were suspect.” Yet, the Commission said, her testimony was nevertheless used.

Despite “incontrovertible indications of serious corruption,” the commission said, Internal Affairs never initiated a single investigation of Officer Dowd and, until the Long Island police intervened, the allegations against him “inevitably died a natural death.”

July 7, 1994, NYTimes, “CORRUPTION IN UNIFORM: THE DOWD CASE; Officer Flaunted Corruption, And His Superiors Ignored It”,


Entire Police Force Suspended After Chief Charged With Corruption


by Tribune News Service | July 30, 2018 AT 5:50 PM
By Will Doran

The police chief in a small Eastern North Carolina town was arrested Thursday, along with one of his lieutenants, and charged with corruption and other crimes, according to multiple news reports.

Southport Police Chief Gary Lee Smith and Lt. Michael Simmons were both charged with obtaining property by false pretense, according to Wilmington television station WWAY. Smith was also charged with obstruction of justice and willful failure to discharge the duties of his office, WWAY reported.

According to WRAL, Smith and Simmons were accused of working for a trucking and shipping company at the same time they were supposed to be working in their jobs leading the local police force, sometimes leaving the city or even the state while on the clock for the city police.

The entire police force has been put on leave because of the allegations against its top leaders, according to Wilmington TV station WECT, and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office is taking over the police department’s duties.

WECT also reported that Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David said the investigation into the police chief and lieutenant began when local police officers began filing complaints.

Southport is home to about 3,600 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s about 28 miles south of Wilmington.

Will Doran, Tribune News Service | July 30, 2018, “Entire Police Force Suspended After Chief Charged With Corruption”,

Grand jury accuses Illinois special prosecutor of misconduct

Brian Towne, shown campaigning, lost a bitter election and is being prosecuted by his opponent.

Story highlights

  • Brian Towne ran a controversial asset-seizure program as county prosecutor until he lost re-election
  • A 17-count indictment alleges misconduct and misapplication of public funds

“(CNN)An Illinois state prosecutor who had been assigned to investigate police and prosecutorial misconduct arising from a wrongful murder conviction has himself been indicted on multiple misconduct charges.

A grand jury in LaSalle County, Illinois, returned a 17-count indictment on Tuesday night accusing Brian Towne of official misconduct and misappropriating public funds while in office. Towne had been the state’s attorney there for a decade until he lost a re-election bid in November.
After losing the election, Towne quickly found a job as a special prosecutor at the Illinois Office of the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor. He had chaired the agency’s board and taught classes at its continuing legal education conferences.
One of his first assignments was to investigate a perjury complaint arising from the wrongful conviction of Jack Daniel McCullough for the 1957 kidnapping and murder of Maria Ridulph. The case was featured in CNN’s 2013 series “Taken,” which raised doubts about whether McCullough had received a fair trial.
Towne stepped aside from the perjury investigation in March after CNN reported he was under scrutiny for how money was spent from an asset forfeiture fund he created.”

September 8, 2017, CNN, “Grand jury accuses Illinois special prosecutor of misconduct”,

Baltimore State’s Attorney announces third body camera video of ‘questionable’ police conduct’

“A new body camera video that appears to show “questionable activity” by a Baltimore police officer has come to light, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office announced Monday — the third body cam video to emerge this month that has raised concerns about possible police misconduct.

At least 43 cases involving the officers in the latest video will be dismissed as a result of this body cam footage, State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office said in a statement. Mosby’s office is also investigating whether any of the officers involved are material witnesses in any other ongoing cases where their testimony is essential to prosecution.”

Baltimore State’s Attorney announces third body camera video of ‘questionable’ police conduct”,

Police chief ‘suspended indefinitely’ after prostitution bust§ion=home

“WALNUT GROVE, Minn. – A small town Minnesota police chief has been “suspended without pay indefinitely” after being caught in a minor prostitution sting.

Redwood County prosecutors have charged 45-year-old Michael Robert Zeug with prostitution-attempting to hire a minor under 18. The charge is a felony and carries the possibility of a five-year prison sentence, $10,000 fine or both.

The criminal complaint filed against Zeug details how he was busted as part of a covert operation to target men in southwest Minnesota trying to hire minors for sex. Members of the task force posted an ad on Craigslist offering sexual services in exchange for cash and Zeug responded to the ad, thinking he was communicating with a 17-year-old girl. Instead, it was an undercover officer who arranged to have sex with Zeug at a home in Redwood Falls.”

Former police officer pleads guilty to smuggling guns to the Dominican Republic

Former Windsor PD officer found guilty

By Staff Reports May 22, 2017 By Staff Reports

“GREENVILLE – A jury in the Eastern District of North Carolina found a former North Carolina police officer guilty of drug, firearm and bribery charges stemming from his participation in trafficking narcotics and narcotics proceeds for a large-scale drug trafficking organization.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce of the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement.

Antonio Tillmon, 33, a former police officer with the Windsor Police Department, was found guilty of multiple counts of conspiring to distribute controlled substances, attempting to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, conspiring to use and carry firearms in relation to drug trafficking offenses, using and carrying firearms in relation to drug trafficking offenses and federal programs bribery.”

Former Windsor PD officer found guilty

2 Orleans County deputies arrested

Sean Lahman , @seanlahman Published 3:34 p.m. ET May 17, 2017

“Two Orleans County sheriff’s deputies were arrested Wednesday and face criminal charges related to their employment with a private security company.

Sgt. Dean Covis of Albion and Deputy Thomas Marano of Brockport were each charged with third-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records, both felonies.

An investigation conducted by the New York State Police Major Crimes unit concluded that between November 2013 and January 2015, Covis and Marano filed false time sheets, indicating that they were working for the private company at times when they were, in fact, working at the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office.”

EXCLUSIVE: Six Hackensack Police Narcotics Officers Suspended

05/09/2017 Jerry DeMarco

“HACKENSACK, N.J. — Six members of the Hackensack Police Narcotics Division — essentially the entire unit — have been suspended, Daily Voice has learned.

Suspended amid an administrative investigation were the unit commander, the second-in-command and two detectives and two patrol officers, multiple law enforcement sources confirmed.

“The officers were suspended pending the outcome of an investigation,” Capt. Francesco Aquila confirmed early Tuesday evening.”

Former Los Angeles Sheriff Found Guilty of Obstructing Federal Investigation

Lee Baca, the former Los Angeles County sheriff, with his lawyer in January. Credit Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

LOS ANGELES — Lee Baca, the former Los Angeles County sheriff, was found guilty on Wednesday of obstructing a federal investigation of corruption and abuses in county jails, as well as covering up his attempt to block investigators.

The verdict brings an end to a corruption scandal that has dogged the largest sheriff’s department in the country and reached the highest levels of the department. Ten other officers, ranging from rank-and-file deputies to Mr. Baca’s second in command, have been convicted or pleaded guilty to interfering in the federal investigation into the jail system. More deputies have been found guilty of routinely sexually humiliating inmates and severely beating them at the jails, according to the Justice Department.

Mr. Baca, who is now 74 and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, could face up to 20 years in federal prison. It is a remarkable fall for a man who was viewed nationally as progressive on criminal justice issues and praised for his outreach to ethnic communities.

The verdict, which the jury reached after less than two days of deliberations, came in the second trial against Mr. Baca, who resigned in 2014 amid the investigation into the corruption charges. Last December, another jury deadlocked, with 11 of the jurors wanting to grant an acquittal and just one finding him guilty.

Continue reading the main story

Federal prosecutors argued that Mr. Baca directed a conspiracy in 2011 to stop the F.B.I. from investigating allegations of abuse and corruption in the county’s jails, including trying to keep federal agents away from an inmate who was working for them as an informant, intimidating the agent leading the investigation and manipulating potential witnesses.

Mr. Baca’s top deputy, Paul Tanaka, was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy last year and sentenced to five years in prison. Federal District Judge Percy Anderson, the same judge who oversaw Mr. Tanaka’s trial, will hand down Mr. Baca’s sentence. Federal prosecutors tried to avoid a trial late last year by reaching a plea deal with Mr. Baca, which would have put him in prison for no longer than six months. But Judge Anderson ruled that the sentence was too lenient.

Deputies initially discovered the federal civil rights investigation in the summer of 2011, when they found that F.B.I. agents had bribed a deputy to get a cellphone to the inmate working as an informant in their investigation of widespread corruption and routine beatings at the jail. The department later moved the inmate around to several other jails, using a pseudonym so that he could not be found and stopping him from speaking to a grand jury, witnesses in the trial said.

Two sheriff sergeants later approached an F.B.I. agent at her home and threatened to arrest her, a plan that prosecutors said Mr. Baca had approved. Other employees of the sheriff’s department tried to dissuade the inmate and other deputies from cooperating with the investigation.

Prosecutors also said Mr. Baca had lied during a 2013 interview with investigators, telling them he had not known that a civil rights investigation was underway when he interfered.