I will caution readers, this is a long winded post, if your choose to read this post please make sure you read it throughly and completely. Internal affairs is portrayed in movies and television shows as a division purely to “jam up” police officers. The first assumption made by those not familiar with law enforcement is that every department has an IA- Internal Affairs Unit which they do not. Their are 18,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies (U.S. Department of Justice, 2016). Smaller and medium size agencies often are not this fortunate. In the City, Township’s, and Boroughs throughout our country we have police agencies with 1 officer that works M-F daylight and allow state police to cover their jurisdiction. The opposite we have NYPD, the largest police department in the United States with 19,000 members (NYPD, 2020).
I will share a very personal story in reference to the blue wall. Until June of 2019 I was a police sergeant assigned to the canine unit of an extremely small police department, 3 full time officers, 10 part time officers covering 2 highways, and 2.2 square miles of residential and businesses. During this time our chief, was my best friend, and the best man at my wedding was our evidence custodian. The only way in or out of the evidence room was through his office, one would think this was extremely secure, we all did.
I was tasked out to the State Attorney Generals Task Force, and the local FBI Street Crimes Task force and utilized my canine narcotic dog in thousands of searches leading to millions of dollars in drugs being taken from the street. I could not have been more blessed for these opportunities, being an officer at such a small department. I loved every minute of my career, I had received awards, made 100’s of DUI Arrests, and felt as if I was truly making a difference everyday the right way.
Rewind to November 2018 when my world changed forever, and I was faced with one biggest ethical delima’s of my life. I began to notice erratic behavior from my best friend, and our chief. Things were off, he was very protective of his office, he starting having an extreme interest in my drug cases, he was starting to come out at various times of the evening, and night hours and just showing up on incidents. He took a great interest in two of our confidential informants, one of them a young female, the other a young male. He was always with them, and would claim he was building a case. The night before thanksgiving 2018 I was working a DUI task force detail, and arrested someone for DUI-D which is driving while impaired on drugs. While sitting in the hospital room waiting for his blood to be drawn, he said you are the K-9 guy, sarcastic looking at my name tag that said K-9 Unit, I said I am. He said, then I’ll give you the biggest drug bust of your career. I laughed it off, and figured this was another person just trying to get out of trouble. He said, seriously I will give you the biggest drug arrest of your career, and tell you who the biggest heroin dealer in town is.
We went back to the station,and I decided to listen to him. This is when he told me that, my chief was a heroin dealer. I was mad, how dare you accuse my friend of that, I know this guy, he would never. I can spot a user, dealer, a mile away well so I thought. I was sick in my stomach, I couldn’t eat, my wife knew something was wrong but I didn’t talk about it. A few days went by, and I started my investigation. This chief preached integrity, I watched him fire two officers for lying about minor non law enforcement things such as call off’s and parking in a handicapped spot claiming if you will lie about minor things you will lie about anything. I whole heartedly agree with this statement.
As my investigation unfolded it became apparent my chief was involved, we did not have IA, I had no one I could trust with this information so I consulted with my supervisor in the Attorney Generals office. This was supposed to be someone I could trust, he looked at me and said, “you have no idea what you are about to do to your career, your boss, and the image of officers throughout our community”. That I, “needed to make a decision, either handle it internally with my chief, or put pen to paper, and turn him in”. I could not believe this person with 20 years more experience than me was telling me this. I was cautioned that this could affect my career.
I thought long and hard the next few days, I conducted my own investigation. On December 6, 2018 I confronted my chief, my best friend. I placed handcuffs on my friend that day, read him his Miranda warnings, and obtained a confession. My chief admitted to being a heroin addict for the past 6 months, that he was taken off pain killers earlier in the year for his back and he couldn’t take the pain. The evidence room was empty, if there wasan opiate in the evidence room, it had been snorted, injected, or sold. I recovered over 5000 empty bags of heroin in his office, a audit of the evidence room would show that over 24,000 bags of heroin were missing over the course of 1 year. My chief was lodged in the county jail, I notified our mayor and department solicitor. I did not feel like I had done the right thing, although I knew I did.
I was instantly banished by neighboring departments, I would be clicked over on the radio when trying to stop cars, I was fighting with a subject one night screaming for help and no one came, to this day without my canine partner I do not know how that struggle would have ended. Ethically, professionally, and personally I knew I had done the right thing. However I had been suspended for failing to report misconduct to our mayor and public safety committee. The political leaders of my community did not want this spot light, they wanted it to just go away. I was asked things like why couldn’t I have just handled it and made it go away without arresting him. He had been a police officer in this community for 19 years, and I ruined him.
If you wear the badge it is your job to serve the public, protect the public, and do the right thing at all costs. It cost me my dream job as a canine officer, a police academy instructor, and many friends. I regretted for a while not being able to see the signs, maybe I should have seen it sooner. I blamed myself for a long time, my wife and children suffered as I struggled to find work as a police officer. Why because I had violated the blue wall of silence. As younger officers are trained, and bad officers are placed into the spot light times will change. Department across the country are ridding agencies of bad officers.