The ticket-fixing that sixteen New York city police officers were charged with last week is not a “professional courtesy,” as some have claimed, but racketeering, writes Prof. Bennett Gershman in his latest piece on the Huffington Post.
The officers were arraigned last Friday in Bronx Criminal Court on 21 indictments charging in over 1,600 counts a massive conspiracy to fix traffic tickets of friends, relatives and assorted big shots. Hundreds of off-duty police officers belonging to the Police Benevolent Association, the largest police union in the city, protested in court. This union was at the center of the conspiracy to destroy tickets, with union delegates and trustees in each precinct actively promoting the corrupt scheme. Gershman wrote:
As one reads through the thousand pages of the indictments, it appears that ticket-fixing has been entrenched in the police department’s culture for decades, and the evidence showed that hundreds of other police officers were caught on tape soliciting the ticket fix. Indeed, the fact that ticket-fixing has been entrenched for so long has blinded some people, most prominently the police, to its seriousness, and to how toxic a message it can send to every person who is not among the favored few, who have to go through the ordeal of traffic court, with the inconvenience, time lost from work, fines, insurance points, and so on.
Does anybody doubt that ticket-fixing by police is corruption? The president of the police union, Patrick Lynch, doesn’t think it is. He claims it is conduct that has been “accepted at all ranks for decades” and should be viewed as “professional courtesy.” Indeed, the police protesters held up signs and chanted “It’s a Courtesy Not a Crime.” The lawyer for the union also belittled the charges, which includes felonies, calling them “relatively minor administrative misconduct at best.” To characterize such official misconduct as “professional courtesy” or “minor administrative misconduct” is mindboggling. It should also be noted that scores of other police officers caught up in the investigation face administrative charges; those indicted were the worst offenders, and charged with serious felonies.
In a breathtakingly ironic moment, the union’s lawyer complained that the Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson was guilty of “overcharging” the police. If anything, the District Attorney was guilty of undercharging them.