Corruption in the NYPD? The department has endured it before

Police are searching for a hit-and-run driver who killed a 45-year-old man in Astoria, Queens on April 6, 2016.
Police are searching for a hit-and-run driver who killed a 45-year-old man in Astoria, Queens on April 6, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Olson

A great movie rental this weekend might be “The Seven Five,” a 2015 documentary about corruption and misconduct at Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct in the 1980s and early ’90s. The drug-running escapades of then-Officer Michael Dowd and other dirty cops around the city led to the creation of the Mollen Commission, a deep dive into systematic grift within the department.

A new drama has unfolded over two weeks: Two high-ranking NYPD officials were placed on modified duty and four others transferred, after a news story revealed that members of the NYPD were under investigation after allegedly doing favors for and accepting gifts from two prominent supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Fancy dinners, Super Bowl tickets, lavish trips and even diamonds were reportedly on the menu. Even former cop Frank Serpico, whose whistle-blowing led to the Knapp Commission probe of corruption in the 1970s, chimed in to suggest little has changed in the department.

If the new allegations are true, it seems that corruption has evolved from beat cops conspiring with drug dealers to police officials conspiring with deep-pocketed political players. De Blasio’s name has been linked not only to this scandal, but also to a luxury condo controversy on the Lower East Side. Add to that the questions raised about the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit created to push the mayor’s agenda. And remember the Police Foundation, a private funding arm for the NYPD that has been described as a “piggy bank” for some commissioners.

Joseph Reznick, assistant chief of NYPD Internal Affairs, was at police headquarters at a recent news conference after the scandal broke. He is an interesting face to put in front of the cameras as police officials grapple with a credibility crisis. He was named in a suit filed by a retired detective who alleges Reznick and others called him a “rat” for reporting misconduct at Brooklyn’s 83rd Precinct.

Serpico’s probably right about the blue wall of silence and corruption. But now police corruption is intermingling with good ol’ fashioned political corruption, and that might spell trouble for some of the NYPD’s not-so-finest.

Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.