Lying NYPD Narcotics Detective Just Cost Prosecutors Nearly 100 Convictions
from the War-on-Drugs-can't-be-slowed-down-by-facts dept
Welcome once again to America’s War on Drugs, already in progress.
In the name of “protecting” us from the overstated ravages of drug addiction, the government engages in violence, rights violations, overzealous prosecutions, millions of interactions with the criminal justice system, and periodic bouts of performative lawmaking.
And what have we gotten in return? Drug users are the real winners here. The more money we throw at the Drug War, the more easily accessible and cheap drugs are. While politicians and government agencies claim they want to save people from violence and corruption, violent and corrupt law enforcement officers are doing all they can to be worse than the problem they’re supposed to be solving.
When there’s not enough drug activity to sustain local Drug Wars, the cops will create it. We saw this happen in Houston, Texas, where a botched drug raid, predicated on multiple levels of bullshit, resulted in cops killing two residents who had never engaged in the drug sales activity cited on the warrant request. Houston cops are, fortunately, feeling the pain. They may still be alive but they’re facing a host of criminal charges.
If there aren’t enough drug war combatants to engage with, cops on drug task forces aren’t above creating their own. The botched raid in Houston was predicated on a statement from a nonexistent informant and drugs pulled from a cop’s cruiser.
In New York City, it’s more of the same. And it’s going to cost city residents millions of dollars before this is all sorted out.
Over nearly two decades as a police officer and narcotics detective, Joseph E. Franco made thousands of arrests, many for the possession and sale of drugs. Mr. Franco often worked undercover, and his testimony secured convictions for prosecutors around the city.
But officials who once relied on Mr. Franco are questioning his accounts. After he was accused of lying about drug sales that videos showed never happened, Mr. Franco was charged with perjury in Manhattan in 2019.
Now, the fallout over Mr. Franco’s police work is spreading: As many as 90 convictions that he helped secure in Brooklyn will be thrown out, prosecutors plan to announce Wednesday. Many more cases in other boroughs could follow — a reckoning that lawyers said appears larger than any in the city’s legal system in recent history.
Cops lie. And their lies are swallowed by those who are supposed to be overseeing them. Turning drugs (and dealers) into cartoonish supervillains has paid off for law enforcement agencies. Billions of tax dollars finance efforts that have done nothing but ensure Americans can buy purer drugs at lower prices. When it’s a cop’s word against some drug fiend/dealer, everyone always believes the cop. Right up until they can’t. Then the fallout begins.
Problems that could have been caught months or years ago seem to only be addressed once they become too big to ignore. Detective Franco worked for the NYPD for nearly 20 years before being rung up on criminal charges. This says nothing good about the NYPD’s internal oversight or internal culture that this went on for this long before it was discovered and addressed.
Welcome to the criminal justice system, Detective Liar:
Mr. Franco was charged in 2019 with 26 criminal counts, including perjury and official misconduct, after investigators in the Manhattan district attorney’s office said that he had testified to witnessing several drug buys that video footage showed did not happen or that he could not have seen.
A whole bunch of “wins” for local prosecutors are now vanishing. And, if what we’ve seen elsewhere in the country is any indication, this will likely end up affecting far more than the ~90 convictions identified by prosecutors. Detective Franco has tainted the entire Narcotics Division. Any involvement of his is now presumably suspect.
Blame the deference given to cops by everyone from prosecutors to courts to the press. Without this reputational free pass, stuff like this would have been spotted prior to it becoming a potentially 20-year problem.
In one episode on the Lower East Side, a man was arrested in February 2017 after Mr. Franco said he witnessed the man selling drugs inside the lobby of a building. But prosecutors said security video showed the transaction never took place — and Mr. Franco had never even entered the building.
In a similar arrest four months later, Mr. Franco said he saw a woman selling drugs in a building’s vestibule on Madison Street. He had not gone into the vestibule, however, and was too far from the woman to observe any sale, prosecutors said after reviewing security footage.
If a detective is this comfortable lying, it’s because they’ve had years of practice and zero pushback from supervisors or other officers on the scene. This is the sort of thing that happens when accountability is nearly nonexistent. Better late than never, for sure. But if the nation’s law enforcement agencies want to win back the public’s trust, they need to address the internal rot they’ve ignored or tolerated for years.