Cops busted in drugs-for-information probe

Eyewitness News Investigators
January 22, 2008 4:34:53 PM PST
Four members of the Brooklyn South Narcotics unit are under arrest Tuesday, accused of stealing drugs from dealers and then giving them to informants.More than a dozen other officers have been reassigned.

Now, their top commander has been reassigned and there are serious questions about the prosecution of more than 100 cases in Brooklyn.

The Investigators' Sarah Wallace has more.

It is what every prosecutor dreads - potentially tainted cases. And now there could be a lot of them. One law enforcement source says the Brooklyn DA's office and internal affairs investigators are now being forced to review more than 130 cases, involving hundreds of arrests. They're small buy-and-bust amounts, but the fallout is already huge.

It is not business as usual for the Brooklyn South Narcotics squad, with 15 officers now placed on administrative duty pending a widening investigation. A total of four officers face criminal charges. Two are suspended and one is on modified duty in the wake a probe that began last fall.

It happened when an undercover officer was caught on tape bragging that he'd only turned in part of a drug seizure during a buy-and-bust.

It is not alleged that this was a shake-down operation, but rather that cops were confiscating small amounts of cash and drugs from drug dealers and then offering rewards, or tips to informants with the proceeds. In one case, an informant was allegedly tipped with $40 in cash and a couple vials of crack.

Now, hundreds of arrests and prosecutions may be in jeopardy, and heads are rolling.

Deputy Chief Joe Reznick has now been moved in to head up city-wide narcotics operations. Transferred were commanding officer James O'Neill and inspector James O'Connell, who oversees Brooklyn South Narcotics. Two captains have been moved as well.

In one case, an undercover officer is accused of having sex with an informant. But sources say there is not a pattern of that behavior. Still, it's all under investigation, and one source tells us there could be more arrests coming, as many as three.