Wall Street Journal
Oct. 29, 2011


Ticket-Fixing Charges Are Minor Among NYPD Corruption Scandals

By TAMER EL-GHOBASHY

While the indictment of 16 officers on charges of fixing tickets represents the largest allegation of misconduct in the New York Police Department in more than a decade, the practice has long been known—and tolerated.

A seminal report issued in 1972 in response to allegations of widespread department corruption described ticket-fixing as "one of the pettiest but sometimes most annoying forms of police corruption."

More: Officers Indicted

   

The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption said even the practice of taking small bribes in exchange for ticket-fixing was "but a minor part of police corruption and [the Commission] chose not to devote any sizable investigative effort to the matter." (None of the officers indicted Friday is accused of accepting bribes.)

The report also identified two categories of corrupt officers: "Grass Eaters," who accepted petty bribes but did not solicit them, and "Meat Eaters," who solicited large-scale bribes and "spend a good deal of their working hours aggressively seeking out situations they can exploit for financial gain."

Friday's indictments outlined a broad and deep culture of ticket-fixing in the NYPD involving hundreds of officers, but other scandals have alleged far more serious crimes.

In 1992, then-Mayor David Dinkins convened the Mollen Commission after a series of high-profile police corruption cases, including accusations that an officer took bribes from drug traffickers and then became a dealer himself. The commission also investigated the so-called "Dirty 30" case in which more than a dozen officers from Harlem's 30th Precinct were implicated in drug robberies, shakedowns and brutality.

The Mollen Commission report excoriated the NYPD for a culture "that exalted loyalty over integrity; because of the silence of honest officers who fear the consequences of 'ratting' on another cop no matter how grave the crime; because of willfully blind supervisors who fear the consequences of a corruption scandal more than corruption itself."

That report helped to enlarge the budget and personnel in the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, a unit that investigates allegations of police misconduct.

—Tamer El-Ghobashy

Write to Tamer El-Ghobashy at tamer.el-ghobashy@wsj.com