A shocking story covered by New York newspapers this week exposed a culture of corruption within the New York City Police Department. According to the stories, NYPD narcotics officers planted drugs on suspects to meet their monthly arrest quotas (read the New York Times story, the New York Daily News story, and the New York Post story). The allegations of police planting drugs on innocent people are enraging and the officers involved should be punished harshly. Several of the officers have already been convicted. Also, prosecutors in Brooklyn and Queens have dismissed over 400 criminal cases, and are settling civil actions by paying those wrongfully incarcerated $1,000 an hour.
The acts committed by the individual officers are bad enough. But what is perhaps even more alarming is the manner in which corruption became a natural part of the job for NYPD narcotics officers. According to one of the narcotics officers involved:
It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators..[s]eeing it so much, its almost like you have no emotion with it. The mentality was that they attach the bodies to it, theyre going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway, nothing is going to happen to them anyway.
Police Departments need to be more proactive in supervising their own. Too often, specialized units within police departments are poorly supervised, making corruption like this possible. Participating in the criminal justice system whether as a judge, criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, or police officer is a grave responsibility and incidents like this are inexcusable.