Why are New York City Police Officers under so much scrutiny? The traffic ticket scam centering in the Bronx has uncovered illegal and criminal actions involving NYC patrol officers and supervisors.
For the past three years the New York City Police Department has been embroiled in the biggest ticket fixing scandal since the “Dirty 30” case in 1993. Just what is ticket fixing? In the most general terms, ticket fixing involves tearing up paperwork on traffic citations before the trial date.
Originally ticket fixing was viewed as a favor. Officers would miss court dates or misplace paperwork in order to help a friend or family member avoid a NYC traffic ticket. The practice has been around for years so is nothing new. However beginning in 2008 information emerged dealing in particular with the officers affiliated with the Bronx boroughs of the NYPD. The evidence uncovered erupted into a full-blown scandal which has taken years to sort out and investigate.
As the scandal dies down the grand jury and NYPD’s own internal affairs investigation has made ticket fixing much more difficult to carry out. This “professional courtesy” for family friends and celebrities, has become a criminal offense that has had disastrous results for police officers and other top cops involved in the criminal activity.
Police Officers Now More Accountable
The police department got wind of the corruption of some of its officers completely by accident. While tapping lines involving an unrelated criminal investigation, officers were overheard talking about fixing tickets for family members and friends. Such brazen actions had to be investigated in order to ascertain how wide-spread the practice had become.
The news was not good, especially for the Bronx officers. For example, a NYC speeding ticket or other serious moving violation involves submitting standard paperwork. Such paperwork was found to routinely disappear for a chosen few. If the paperwork did not vanish then the police officer himself would not show up for the court appearance yielding the same result.
In response to such favoritism, losing track of initial paperwork is now much more difficult. The New York Police Department developed a new computerized system for entering moving violations. Closer scrutiny of an officer showing up for a scheduled court appearance has also helped to stem the problem.Although ticket fixing will never go away completely, the illegal activity now occurs less frequently than before.
Fixing Moving Violations
What is a moving violation? Simply put a moving violation occurs whenever a traffic offense is committed while the car or vehicle is in motion. Further examples of moving violations that results in a NYC traffic ticket are failing to yield, making an illegal turn, following too closely, not stopping for a school bus, driving with faulty brakes or other equipment, leaving the scene of an accident without identifying yourself, passing or changing lanes in an unsafe way, or driving in the wrong direction. If a driver fails to use seatbelts or other safety restraints for children, a moving violation is issued. Driving without insurance, a license, or driving with a suspended or revoked license rounds out the type of charges dealt in a more serious fashion.
Understanding the Bronx Connection
At the top of the ticket fixing scandal are all twelve boroughs of the Bronx, New York area. Having the most to lose, some police officers found guilty of criminal charges have managed to plea bargain in order to keep their retirement pensions. Others have been penalized with loss of vacation days and docked pay; ten day suspensions have occurred when officers have incorrectly filled out summonses.
Phone taps aimed at other investigations turned out to be the downfall of many Bronx police officers. Speaking freely about fixing tickets on tapped lines made it easy for grand jury investigators, and police department officials to identify and bring charges against the violators.
It became a case of using the NYPD to beat its own internal ticket fixing scam. Police officers and higher officials testified about the ticket fixing habits of their fellow officers.
Traffic Infraction Versus Traffic Violation
A traffic ticket deemed a “violation” is considered a crime and would be classified as a misdemeanor or felony. Because of the seriousness of the charge, this classification is best handled by a NYC traffic lawyer. The process that begins with the issuance of a NYC speeding ticket is the type of violation reported to New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Depending on the seriousness of the charge, points can be added to a driver’s record. Points may stay on a driving record for eight-teen months. A minimum of three points can be issued for a speeding ticket up to the maximum of eleven points. When a motorist accumulates more than eleven points a mandatory thirty-one day suspension of driving privileges kicks in.
Using an attorney a driver can dispute the DMV’s records at what is called a “license suspension hearing”. If the slightest record keeping problem manifests itself, the ticket has a good chance of being dismissed. For motorists who wish to plea bargain in order to reduce the amount of points added to the driver’s license an experienced traffic attorney is well worth the added expense.
Consequences of the Ticket Fixing Scandal
For law-abiding New Yorkers, traffic tickets serves as a constant reminder to drive carefully. This reminder is to apply equally to the general public as well as family, friends, and celebrities who travel in and around New York.
The punishment of so many corrupt police officers serves as a good reminder to the police department that no one is to be placed above the law. Officers facing the loss of their retirement pensions along with the loss of a good reputation have to wonder if fixing tickets is worth the risk. Bad consequences have been felt by the innocent and guilty police alike. Public shame, arrests, and tarnished images follow the Bronx borough. While the investigation is winding down to its lawful conclusion the damage to the image of the police department will take much longer to recover. For the officers who are disciplined internally, docked pay is still a very high price to pay.
Officers who are put in the position of testifying against fellow officers can find the stress unbearable. The New York Post reported that a 62 year old officer was so distraught about testifying for a second time, he tried to commit suicide by touching the third rail of the subway. He was prevented from retiring due to his being under investigation. The police department plans to take away his gun and place him on modified duty. He survived the suicide attempt and now must come to terms with the knowledge that indictments are to come based on his testimony. He was given immunity in the case, but obviously feels he betrayed his department and does not forgive himself.