AMERICA'S war on illegal narcotics has a new worry: corrupt cops.
Huge bribes from drug smugglers and dealers are threatening law
enforcement efforts along the Southwest border, as well as in major
cities and small towns. Officials are troubled.
"There's a lot of concern among police chiefs about the
corruption," says Patrick Murphy, director of the Drug Policy Board
of the US Conference of Mayors.
Mr. Murphy, who was police commissioner of New York City during
the early 1970s, says the amount of drug money used for bribes is
mind-boggling. "Gambling money was peanuts compared to this," he
George Heavey, assistant commissioner of the US Customs Service,
observes grimly that "if a smuggler offers $50,000, $100,000, or
$200,000 to an officer, it has to be tempting."
Sometimes the offers are even higher. Edwin Delattre, author of
"Character and Cops: Ethics in Policing," says he has "friends in
law enforcement who have turned down cash bribes greater than their
entire career earnings."
How much is that? "More than $2 million apiece," he says.
All this money is taking a toll.
- Customs officials are probing 300 potential cases of possible
corruption or malfeasance within the ranks of the service. The
preponderance of the cases involve narcotics.
- Los Angeles County officials suspended 26 deputies earlier
this year in an ongoing probe of corruption that may have involved
the skimming of at least $1.4 million in drug money.
- Prosecutors won guilty verdicts this year against four
Philadelphia narcotics officers, who were convicted of stealing
money and drugs from dealers.
Not all the cases are so dramatic. Many involve sheriffs in rural
counties, small-town policemen, or lone federal agents in cahoots
Nor are bad cops the only culprits. Dr. Delattre, who is the Olin
scholar of applied ethics at Boston University, says: "You will
mislead readers if you say that police corruption is a problem, and
ignore more widespread problems in the private sector, or other
parts of government."
The professor says drug corruption "involves judges in some
cities, and other public servants in both the legislative and
Drug corruption also taints the private sector. Delattre notes
that "17 people were indicted on Wall Street in (the past two years)
for dealing in cocaine, or giving inside information in exchange for
But bad cops are foremost on the minds of many officials.
William Rohde, director of investigations for Customs, points to
a case in which a Customs inspector was arrested in Arizona, and now
awaits trial, on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine. …