Pubdate: Fri,  2 May 2003
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Copyright: 2003 Houston Chronicle
Author: Thom Marshall
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


There will be no independent probe into problems and possible corruption at 
the police department crime lab if Lee Brown has his way.

The mayor restated his long-held position on independent panel 
investigations into police activities this week after several city and 
county officials joined the call for one.

Call it a Brown wall of resistance.

But for the sake of today's discussion, let's say the pro-panel position 
prevails and you get invited to serve on it. What's the first thing you 
would do?

Likely, you'd take a look at how comparable independent investigations in 
other big cities were conducted. And that, almost certainly, would lead you 
to the Mollen Commission of New York City. In New York Times news stories 
about that body you would find frequent mention of Lee Brown, who served as 
New York police commissioner for 2 1/2 years during the time period covered 
by the Mollen inquiry.

Review of NYPD found plenty A half-dozen New York City cops were arrested 
for cocaine trafficking in May 1992, and people began asking why the 
department had not uncovered the scandal long before. The New York Times 
reported Brown as saying the department's system for weeding out corruption 
was one "that police agencies across the country look to."

(Something truly frightening is that he may have been right about that. 
Police agencies across the country may have similar problems.)

A few weeks later, when then-New York Mayor David Dinkins announced 
creation of the special panel headed by former judge and former deputy 
mayor Milton Mollen, a Times story noted that Commissioner Brown was 
conspicuous in his absence from the news conference.

Within a few days, Brown finally conceded there was a problem. He announced 
some new anti-corruption measures and asked one of his deputies to prepare 
a report on why the department had failed to stop the leader of the cop 
drug dealers. Not much, considering what the independent probe uncovered.

The Mollen Commission learned that NYPD Internal Affairs maintained a 
secret file where charges against its own investigators were deposited 
rather than being passed on to prosecutors. The commission declared the 
police department was incompetent in policing itself.

In its final report issued in July 1994, the Mollen panel said that scores 
of officers had told the panel that they believed the department did not 
want them to report corruption, that such information often was ignored, 
and that reporting it could ruin their careers.

"The evidence shows that this belief was not unfounded," the report said.

Police supervisors had a greater fear of the consequences of a corruption 
scandal than they did of the corruption itself.

The Mollen report recommended creation of a permanent independent 
commission to provide constant review of police department efforts to 
eliminate corruption.

Truth behind wall of resistance Brown was one of three men who served in 
the police commissioner's post during the period covered by the 
investigation. Just as he opposed the Mollen Commission back then, he is 
adamant now in opposing an independent panel to investigate the crime lab. 
This despite the fact that many other city and county officials recognize 
that one is needed to restore faith in the criminal justice system.

The Mollen probe revealed that serious police corruption problems were 
being concealed behind a blue wall of silence. Doesn't it make you wonder 
what a special commission might learn about the crime lab scandal if a 
special commission could look behind the Brown wall of resistance?

Our current mayor, who also once was our police chief, often talks about 
how important it is for police and citizens to work together. Yet he 
resists having an independent panel that could restore citizens' confidence 
in the police.

Apparently his neighborhood policing concept has a one-way street.

Coming Saturday: A talk with Frank Serpico, the former New York City cop 
who became the world's best-known champion of police honesty.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom