Police Corruption is Rife Thanks to Drugs
Crime, in the name of the law
Federal court testimony reveals corruption in the Delta squad, an elite undercover drug team at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. Here is an article summarizing the situation. Similar abuses are taking place around the USA.
by Alicia CaldwellThey prowled the streets of Manatee County, looking for the perfect victims -- poor, troubled people no one would believe.
Then, they robbed them. Beat them. And even bragged about it. When it began to come apart, they hung together and conspired to keep quiet. They saw themselves as above the law. After all, they were the law.
The crimes committed by the Delta squad, an elite drug interdiction team at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, have trickled out in shocking detail in federal court.
It's a tale of rogue cops who routinely lied on police reports and carried their own stash of crack cocaine to plant if they couldn't find any on the people they wanted to bust.
"They developed their own set of rules and mind-sets about how things should be," said Mark Lipinski, a Bradenton lawyer who represents several Delta squad victims. "They preyed upon people who were basically defenseless."
So far, the toll is jarring: Four Delta squad agents have pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges and await sentencing. More than 100 charges have been dropped against 67 defendants in cases made by Delta officers. And the federal investigation, according to the lead prosecutor on the case, is continuing.
Among the transgressions detailed in federal plea agreements:
Delta agents got a bogus search warrant for a Manatee County duplex and planted crack cocaine there. A woman visiting the home was arrested. As a result of her felony conviction, she lost custody of her child. Before her encounter with the Delta squad, she had no criminal record. Eventually, her conviction was overturned and her child was returned."This way of doing things seemed to be a fairly entrenched, okay way of doing things," said Jeffrey Del Fuoco, lead prosecutor on the case from the U.S. Attorney's Office. "It just seems to me that this kind of a network doesn't spring up overnight." ....
Delta officers conducted an illegal search of a Bradenton motel room and stole $9,000 from a man, who filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office. Later, deputies planted crack cocaine in the man's car as retaliation for the complaint.
The officers brought crack with them on busts. If they didn't find any in the homes or pockets of the people they were trying to arrest, they would plant it. Fabricating cases wasn't the only aim. The agents wanted to use seizure laws to take cars and other property from their victims.
Sometimes the agents would give crack cocaine to people who were helpful to their investigations.
Blake Melhuish, a Bradenton lawyer who has represented a Delta victim in criminal matters, said the federal plea agreements are so detailed that they are virtual blueprints for civil lawsuits.
"From beginning to end, it's unbelievable," Melhuish said. "I grew up believing the cops were the good guys. We're finding that sometimes they're not."
Del Fuoco said he expects further charges. It's unclear, he said, how far up the chain of command the improprieties go.
"We go where the evidence goes," Del Fuoco said. "The investigation definitely continues."
So not only criminals, but the law enforcement officers whose salaries we pay, are endangering our private property. Is there a solution? What's your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
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