Corruption Trial Heats Up for Philly OfficersBy Gabriel Levin on April 30th, 2015
A federal criminal trial involving six Philadelphia police officers is currently in full swing and, as likely expected, police officers testifying for the defense are fully defending the innocence of their colleagues. Severe racketeering charges were brought against seven different law enforcement officers in 2013 alleging that the officers, all members of the same undercover narcotics squad, repeatedly committed a variety of criminal offenses while on the job. Some allegations include stealing money from drug dealers, reselling seized drugs for profit, purposefully planting evidence, threatening and assaulting drug dealers, and repeatedly lying to judges regarding the circumstances of searches and arrests.
Since the squad kept bringing in high-profile drug dealers, their bosses and internal affairs departments repeatedly looked the other way and did not question their actions until the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched a sting operation and caught the officers. Now, they face
Officers continue to try to cover up the crimes
The defense for the officers has paraded eight different police supervisors and officers through the court, all stating that the corruption allegations against the defendants are false. Officers have testified that all of the drug dealers who claim the drug squad members stole and beat them are simply criminals who cannot be trusted. They either had stories contradicting the allegations or simply flat out denied that certain situations ever happened.
Though the officers were reportedly dressed to the nines in their dress uniforms and did their best to appear as official and trustworthy as possible, the jury may have difficulty taking all of their testimony at face value—or any value at all. This is because another officer who was also part of the drug squad and charged had already testified for the prosecution against his former colleagues.
“Rogue” officer comes clean
Jeffrey Walker is a former Philadelphia police officer who was a member of the accused narcotics squad and was arrested in the FBI sting operation. Walker had reportedly already been at odds with five of the six members of the drug team for a few years, though he continued to serve as one of the two main physical enforcers due to his size. While he was out on jobs, the other members of the group would use his substance abuse issues, failing marriage, and weight loss issues as subjects of ridicule and entertainment. The animosity and growing divide between Walker and the other officers may have contributed to his willingness to go “rogue” and cooperate with the federal agents, plead guilty to the charges, and testify against the rest at trial. Walker also claims that he had a “spiritual epiphany” that led to his desire to confess, though he was additionally trying to avoid receiving a life sentence if convicted at trial.
Walker came clean to federal law enforcement regarding all of his different crimes over the years, as well as the crimes of his six former colleagues. He took the witness stand in mid-April and stated that the group likely committed “thousands” of different offenses both on the street and in the courtroom by lying on the witness stand to convict the drug dealers they mistreated. He stated police reports were falsified and vague, though the defendants did not complain because the lies were partially in their favor. For example, in one instance, Walker claims they seized four kilos of cocaine and resold three, pocketing tens of thousands in proceeds. They then reported that they only seized one kilo of cocaine. Therefore, in order to challenge the false reports, dealers would have to admit to having more drugs than reported and would face harsher penalties.
Since Walker first confessed to the repeated criminal acts of the undercover squad, courts in the Philadelphia area have overturned more than 160 convictions of drug dealers who were arrested and convicted based on false information provided by the officers. Individuals have additionally filed numerous lawsuits in civil court against the officers alleging many different kinds of civil rights violations. These civil cases are paused until the end of the criminal trial, however, until the criminal trial ends.
Once the defense rests, the federal jury will have to decide whether they believe Walker and the drug dealers or the eight officers who continue to try to defend their former colleagues. If convicted, each officer will almost certainly be spending the rest of their lives in prison.