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Investigator Says Probe Obstructed in Case of Corrupt NYC Officer

September 28, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ The police Internal Affairs Division obstructed its own investigator’s probe into crooked officers at a Brooklyn precinct, the investigator testified today.

Sgt. Joseph Trimboli said that his attempts to get his superiors interested in the 75th Precinct scandal were rebuffed from 1987 to 1989. Even leverage from a borough commander didn’t help, he said.

Trimboli said he had stumbled across allegations against a ringleader, Officer Michael Dowd, and investigated them on his own. The case widened to include 20 to 25 officers before the division declared the investigation closed.

Through informers and his own legwork, Trimboli said, he discovered that:

-Police officers, part of Dowd’s ″crew,″ divvied up armed robbery proceeds on a back-room pool table at a Brooklyn ″watering hole.″

-One drug dealer socialized with police officers at hotel sex and drug parties.

-Dowd’s red Corvette was parked outside a car-stereo shop that was a front for a Dominican drug operation. In January 1989, a month after the investigation was closed, Dowd stayed in a $500 per-person, per-night resort in the Dominican Republic. He went there with a former officer who had been arrested earlier for armed robbery.

The arrest of Dowd, 32, last year on a raft of federal corruption charges prompted the creation of a mayoral commission to investigate the nation’s largest police department. The panel is known as the Mollen Commission, after its chairman, Milton Mollen, a former judge and deputy mayor.

On Monday, Dowd himself testified how he went from accepting free pizza as a rookie officer to running an $8,000-a-week drug protection racket and sniffing lines of cocaine off the dashboard of his patrol car.

″I could do just about anything and get away with it,″ Dowd testified.

His 1987 job evaluation gave no clue of his activities, praising him as a man with ″excellent street knowledge″ who was likely ″to become a role model″ for other officers.

The panel began its work Monday in the same vaulted hall where the Knapp Commission - formed to investigate Frank Serpico’s allegations - convened in 1971.

The first witness, Mayor David Dinkins, noted that police corruption scandals have surfaced almost every 20 years this century, and he urged the panel to find a way to end the cycle.

The five-man panel - which presented Dowd’s job evaluation as evidence of the department’s tendency to close its eyes to dirty officers - is expected to recommend a permanent monitoring body to weed out corruption.

Dowd, a 10-year police veteran, was fired after his arrest. In June he agreed to plead guilty to racketeering and drug charges in exchange for a sentence of about 12 1/2 years.

The officer testified Monday that his journey began at the police academy, where recruits were taught to ″cover your ass″ and adopt ″an us-vs.-them″ attitude toward the public. As a rookie, he learned the code of ″never ratting″ on one’s colleagues, he said.

As a rookie in Brooklyn’s tough 75th Precinct, he was subjected to a ″test″ by an officer who got a pizza for them without paying. However minor, it was ″a test to see if you’re strong together,″ Dowd said. ″If you’ll back ’em up.″

Dozens of officers would regularly ″rendezvous at the pool″ - a hidden inlet off Jamaica Bay - where they would drink beer, shoot off guns and plan drug raids where the dealers would be robbed, Dowd said.

Asked if his supervisors knew where he and his colleagues were, Dowd said, ″Everybody knew we were there.″

Dowd and his partner became so adept at robbing drug dealers that they set a $200-a-day goal, with the target rising to $500 a day around the holidays.

Dowd became an alcoholic and cocaine addict. He snorted the drug off the dashboard as his partner looked on, not objecting because ″he knew I’d get in a better mood.″

Eventually Dowd and his partner graduated to a job protecting a drug operation for $8,000 a week, which they’d pick up in the patrol car every Tuesday.

Dowd drove a red Corvette, owned four homes, took lavish vacations. His take-home pay, meanwhile, was about $400 a week. He often forgot to pick it up.

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