A search of police log books turned up an unusual pair of rescues—seven black cars on guard, unpaid tickets and a dead body laying in their front yard.
The bodies inside those stolen cars belonged to officers suspended from duty, fired or otherwise found to be “unfit” for work, according to Miami Police Vice Chief Manuel Perez.
While arrests are made of the drivers of the police cars, more often they are the enablers. In the case of Officer Rigo Campos, reported a New York Times reporter, a man’s body was found in his abandoned red Chevrolet Impala. Two other cars with weapons, drugs and other illegal goods were also found in the stolen car, which was then used by another cop officer for the sole purpose of heading back to his home and collecting the money from car sales.
In Kati Melendez’s case, which has been published by the Wall Street Journal, her boyfriend was the police officer who helped her pick up $32 from a dead car tire. When Melendez’s boyfriend was arrested for robbery and extortion, he was unable to immediately produce the cash, so Melendez picked up the pace by setting up the car on fire to hasten the process of retrieving it.
Disputes over the use of taxpayer dollars is what makes these cases so interesting.
While Perez said his department’s policies set aside funding for the use of squad cars by suspended officers, the New York Police Department took a different approach in that program. A resident wrote about his own contacts with the police harassment and extortion squad and how at least one officer was “looking over his shoulder all the time.”
To many, especially Americans, the press and public integrity unit, which investigates allegations of government corruption, is front and center. But there is another take on such investigations.
In interviews with an ethics expert and an HR expert, I was struck by the frequency with which both believed the issue was the lack of a policy — there is no formal protocol, for example— for officers of multiple departments using each other’s cars for reasons other than service.
Brian Leininger, whose first job in the business was at an insurance company in 1969, believes that such conduct is unethical and sets the man behind the badge up for being accused of stealing money from victims, or at best is less than ethical.
When the IRS makes mistakes with tax forms and treats a man who has won a prize as the recipient of a lesser prize, that doesn’t mean it is unethical to do so.
In short, these people believe that a car sale isn’t just a use of an officer’s time to put a dollar in his pocket; it is something much more, where it starts out as an untoward encounter and ends up as theft.
Many victims in traffic stops don’t report the case because they are afraid the police department won’t investigate. Money and power breed the worst behavior. When an officer isn’t being investigated, it further fuels unethical behavior.
Of course, these sorts of problems don’t happen only in traffic stops; the police and private companies are also both guilty of things that break the law. Criminal activity and the misuse of taxpayer money has no boundaries.
The road to officers making use of a car for selfish, wrong or immoral reasons with impunity, from questionable sales, does have a name, and it is not a name police chiefs care much to recall or discuss: corruption.
Joe Dorman (@JoeDorman) is a national correspondent at Fox News Channel. He is based in Washington, D.C. and tweets as @JoeDorman.
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