Monday, 17 February 2014

Cash and cops

A startling piece in the NY Daily News today sheds some light on why the police department has been so recalcitrant in the face of obvious dysfunctional policies like stop-and-frisk. As is so often the case, the key is follow-the-money.

Turns out that among the top overtime earners in the department’s detective branch, DN reporters Sarah Ryley and Dareh Gregorian found names that had popped up repeatedly in court suits for false arrests. Without stating it explicitly, the story strongly suggests that the detectives were eager to rack up overtime hours and thus went out looking for crimes that did not exist.

The star of their amazing tales is detective Peter Valentin who earns a base salary of $87 thousand a year. He topped that up with a tidy $38 thousand more last year by charging the taxpery for 585 overtime hours, consistent with his record in prior years. How did he do that?

One hint at the tactics deployed by Valentin and his buddies shows up in a false-arrest lawsuit filed by Bronx youths Tyrone Shields, Gary Castillo and Marcel Grant (shown above). They were picked up in 2011 and driven around in custody for ‘several hours’ before being taken in to a precinct and booked. The stationhouse, however, was only two blocks away from the point of arrest. What took so long?

Well, if the goal is to rack up hours for extra pay, it make sense to have drug charge suspects in your custody and diddle around with them. After all, they’re just black and Hispanic teenagers, so who’s going to complain? As it turned out, there was no evidence against them, the charges were dropped, and the three sued successfully over the incident, costing New York City taxpayers another $83,000 in the settlement payout. But that’s only about one-tenth of all the money Detective Valentin has cost the city in lawsuit settlements: $884 thousand in all.

Although the city often pays up, it never admits guilt. So the whole sorry procedure continues with the next set of victims, and the city treasury is successfully bled. The air of corruption hangs heavily over the entire department, and stop-and-frisk abuses are only the most visible manifestation of a system engineered to channel public funds into private pockets—which, now that I think of it, is pretty consistent with how things are done these days everywhere.

We can hope that the new mayor and his incoming police commissioner, now said to be engaged in a ‘department-wide review,’ will take steps to end this farce. Outgoing Commission Kelly had no interest in rocking this succulent boat as seen in this detail from the story:

Another top overtime earner is Sgt. Fritz Glemaud of Brooklyn North Narcotics, who was given a promotion and a raise by former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly last August, despite having been named in 21 civil rights suits.

Or this:

Detective Vincent Orsini of Staten Island Narcotics has been named in lawsuits totaling more than $1 million in settlements. He raked in $46,133 for his 587 hours in overtime.

In any case, the often annoying Daily News has done us an excellent service is exposing the facts for all to see.

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