‘Collars for Dollars’ Trial Starts for NYPD Officers Accused of Making False Arrest for the Overtime Pay

The narcotics officers from the 83rd Precinct didn’t get much when they set up outside the J & C Mini Market on Irving Avenue in Brooklyn on an autumn afternoon four years ago.

Moving in on what seemed to be a crack deal, they seized two packets, which turned out to contain little more than a residue of the drug. Two men — said to be the buyer and the seller — were arrested, but the charges against one of the men were eventually dismissed.

What the officers did get that day was more than 20 hours in overtime for hauling in and processing the men. Collectively, court papers say, they earned as much as $1,400 in extra pay.

On Tuesday, four of the officers involved in the arrests will appear in Federal District Court in Brooklyn for the start of an unusual civil-rights trial, facing accusations that they detained one of the men, Hector Cordero, simply to increase their income.

If any of the officers are found liable, another trial will be scheduled, one that could represent the biggest challenge to New York policing practices since stop-and-frisk. The second trial would examine the broader question of whether the city’s police officers habitually use false arrests to bolster their pay.

Accusations about the practice — known as “collars for dollars” — have dogged the department for decades. The Mollen Commission’s 1994 report about police corruption, which used the term, detailed the various and devious overtime schemes that have been used.

In one, the police would involve additional officers in making an arrest, maximizing the number of people eligible for overtime. In a typical arrangement, those extra officers might claim to have discovered evidence that the defendant had tried to hide, or in some other way they would enter the case as peripheral witnesses. They would need to be on hand to handle paperwork or be available to testify — so they too would get overtime pay.

In another practice, known as “trading collars,” officers sometimes directed arrests to the member of their team who stood to get the most overtime. Felony arrests are often presented to a grand jury about five days after the incident; but if an officer who took part was scheduled to work on the anticipated grand jury date, he or she might defer to a colleague who was not.

The second officer would “take the arrest,” and receive the extra pay for going to court on a day off — even if that meant testifying about events the officer had never witnessed, the report maintained.

One of the city’s most infamous overtime frauds occurred in the late 1980s among officers from the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, Brooklyn, known as the Morgue Boys. At their federal corruption trial in Brooklyn, Daniel Eurell, an officer who pleaded guilty, testified that he and his colleagues often made arrests when their shifts were almost over to ensure receiving overtime. The group would then file false reports, or “cover stories,” to justify the arrests, Officer Eurell said.

The notion that police officers have financial incentives in making arrests also emerged at the trial last month of a Queens detective convicted of perjury. The detective, Kevin Desormeau, had arrested a man on drug charges after claiming, falsely it turned out, to have witnessed the suspect dealing drugs. In arguing the case, prosecutors noted that Detective Desormeau had filed for four hours and 24 minutes of overtime for “an arrest that was illegal.”

If Mr. Cordero’s allegations that he was falsely arrested to boost overtime pay are upheld, it would seem to suggest that years of attention and reform have only had a marginal effect on curbing the connection between false arrests and overtime, said Harry G. Levine, a professor of sociology at Queens College who has written extensively about drugs and policing. It would also trigger the second broader trial, which lawyers and policing experts in New York said would be a rarity.

For full story visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/nyregion/new-york-police-overtime-pay-trial.html

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Filming Cops
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Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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