Anti-Drug Police Squad Assaulted and Stole, Prosecutor Says
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ Five former police officers who were part of a special street-level drug enforcement team systematically abused suspects for 2 1/2 years, a federal prosecutor said today.
In opening arguments in U.S. District Court, a lawyer for one of the defendants told jurors the Rochester officers were made scapegoats by police administrators.
Prosecutor Cathleen Mahoney accused the officers of abusing their authority by ″beating people with blackjacks and two-by-fours ... stealing from them ... and even framing people for crimes they did not commit.″
″They abused the law they pledged to uphold, they crossed the line into criminal behavior,″ Mahoney said.
The five are charged with abusing suspects, planting evidence, skimming official funds and faking overtime vouchers in 73 separate incidents.
Mahoney said that when the team was formed, Rochester police Capt. James O’Brian, one of the defendants, told the other officers he wanted to see ″sparks and fire on the street.″
Defense lawyer John Parrinello said the officers who will testify for the prosecution are lying to protect themselves or were intimidated into testifying.
″There was no conspiracy, there was no agreement,″ he said. ″The only agreement they had was to go out and shut down drug dealers.″
Former Police Chief Gordon Urlacher pleaded guilty in December to a felony charge of conspiracy, admitting that he knew the officers were abusing suspects but did nothing to stop the abuse.
Urlacher is serving a four-year federal prison term for a separate embezzlement conviction.