On Monday, March 30th, a Philadelphia court will hear a case involving corruption of six drug unit officers. The charges stem from numerous incidents between 2006 and 2012 in which officers used violence and other forms of aggression in order to steal a half-million dollars and several kilos of cocaine from local drug dealers. This comes after an indictment in August 2014, long after local or federal prosecutors began dismissing cases instigated by the elite drug unit.
Testimony in the case will come from about 20 different drug dealers and a former colleague. Jeffrey Walker, the former officer, pled guilty to stealing $15,000 and planting evidence on a suspect in an earlier case. Prosecutors have also acknowledged that Walker also once stole three kilos of cocaine from a drug trafficker, a crime he was not charged for. It is likely that the charge was dropped in a backroom deal to get him to testify against his former co-workers.
The colorful assortment of witnesses and the criminal-overachievement of the accused has promised to make the trial a drawn-out, rambunctious affair. The deeds of the officers sound like something out of a grocery store paperback thriller about drug cartels and mafioso. Beatings, break-ins, robbery and even an homage to the deceased King of Pop via a balcony dangling; which was used to obtain information. Their trail of destruction has led to a number of convictions being overturned, according to public defender *Bradley Bridge.
“The tragic part is, because of the police corruption, we have absolutely no idea whether the people arrested were actually drug dealers, or actually innocent people wrongly arrested and maligned, and brought into the judicial system.” *
Lead defendant Thomas Liciardello was denied bail and has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest, while the other five have been on house arrest. Thomas and those other officers — Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, Brian Reynolds, John Speiser and Michael Spicer — had been named in nearly 100 civil rights lawsuits prior to their arrest late last summer.
“When you put police officers out to interact with drug dealers … corruption inevitably arises. There is too much money, too little supervision, and virtually no oversight.” *
This case is just one of many nationally in which law enforcement officers, especially high-ranking ones, are being tried for their involvement in illegal drug trade and related crimes. The War on Drugs has created a wealthy side-industry for corrupt police and other agencies. While our prisons fill up with non-violent offenders of drug crimes, the very people who enforce this farce often seem heavily engaged in illustrating the very folly they make possible.
I believe in personal choice, whether that is the choice to buy, sell or take drugs; but also in the responsibility of those in authority to exercise their own moral judgement in a failing war against citizens. Officers who seek careers in this cottage industry of malarkey and misery should be put on trial for breaking their oath to uphold our rights and liberties. Then let them buy and sell all the drugs they want, so long as they play nice and keep away from balconies.