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Commission Told Rogue Officers Kept Guns To Plant On Suspects

September 30, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ Rogue officers took guns from drug dealers in illegal raids, kept them, sold them or sometimes used them to try to frame suspects, an ex-policeman testified Wednesday.

Kevin Hembury told a commission probing police corruption that he never took any guns himself and never saw anyone plant one, but that it was common knowledge in Brooklyn’s 73rd Precinct that it was done.

The corruption probe was touched off by the arrest last summer of Officer Michael Dowd of the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn, who testified Monday that he accepted payoffs from drug dealers in a $4,000-a-week operation to provide information on police operations.

On Wednesday, Hembury laid out a scenario in which a half-dozen police cars would assemble via radio calls and head out in a caravan to conduct illegal drug raids.

He said the activities went on openly without threat of prosecution.

″The department is afraid of scandal,″ Hembury testified. ″The department doesn’t want their dirty laundry being aired.″

Hembury, 29, said he only took cash during his six years on the force, but not drugs or guns. He pleaded guilty after his 1992 arrest and is serving a two-to six-year prison sentence.

Another jailed ex-officer, Bernie Cawley, followed Hembury on the witness stand, spinning yet another tale of a policeman who fed on the drug trade in a neighborhood where police and the community share mutual disrespect.

The 29-year-old said he was known as ″The Mechanic″ because of his penchant for ″tuning up″ - or beating - civilians in the 46th Precinct in the Bronx.

Cawley confessed to smashing in hundreds of doors and stealing drugs and cash, all without ever serving a search warrant or making arrests.

″They hate the police,″ Cawley said of the residents of one apartment house he and other officers regularly terrorized. ″You would hate the police too if you lived there.″

Both Hembury and Cawley, like Dowd, said they never feared their overworked supervisors or the Internal Affairs Division would catch them. Radio calls would go out warning officers any time internal affairs paid a visit, Cawley said.

In addition, internal affairs did not follow up on tips provided by Cawley after his arrest in 1990, and never questioned Hembury after he was picked up, commission officials said.

At a news conference Wednesday, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called the testimony of all three ″revolting″ and ″depressing.″

″The only good thing about them is that they are in jail,″ he said.

But Kelly also suggested that the testimony was over-dramatized.

″I think it’s fair to say this is a one-sided presentation,″ he said.

Kelly, who is on the list of future witnesses, is expected to emphasize his overhaul of the Internal Affairs Division.

″I’m not standing here saying corruption can’t happen,″ he said. ″But the system is much stronger today than it ever was.″

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