Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Desire Terrorist

The Road to Corruption: Part 2 -- Abuse on All Levels

Other enterprising NOPD officers found lucrative side jobs providing security for visiting movie production crews. New Orleans, with its centuries-old architecture and nearby scenic bayous, has been a favorite location for movie shoots since the early 20th century. Film production in and around the city was flourishing in the 1980s and 1990s.

Several of the patrolmen on movie details convinced the na´ve producers -- most of whom were from California, New York and abroad -- to pay them for the job they were doing, even though they were already on patrol and collecting their regular salaries. Some of these clever cops took these producers' na´vetÚ a step or two further. They charged producers for the rental of city-owned equipment such as barricades, squad cars, horses, police dogs and other city property and they pocketed the money. The city didn't make a dime on these deals and it didn't become known until the late 80s when the whistle was blown and several cops were indicted for payroll fraud. At least one conviction resulted.

Two or three cops in particular outdid their counterparts on these movie details. They muscled in on the movies themselves and convinced the producers to let them appear on-camera. And, since they were given "speaking roles," they received SAG-scale (Screen Actors Guild) wages and were paid as actors -- even though their speaking roles may have been limited to a line or two. Some of the more devious cops managed to get their families into the act -- literally -- with on-camera roles or by providing ancillary services. The wife of one of these actor/cops was a nurse and she provided on-site "medical services" for the cast and crew; for pay, of course. Family members of other officers were awarded lucrative food catering deals, according to anonymous informed sources within the city's film industry.

During this golden age of NOPD corruption, it was discovered that some officers of the K-9 Corps were secretly leasing city-owned police dogs to breeders in exchange for "stud fees," the way horse breeders do with thoroughbred stallions. The city didn't make a dime on these deals, either, but the K-9 officers were obviously making considerably more than that.

According to other published reports, several detectives in charge of tracking down ownership of stolen vehicles made little or no effort to do so. Knowing that the owners would be compensated by their insurance companies, these detectives kept the choicest vehicles for themselves and sold some of the others on the side. They would claim that they couldn't locate the vehicles' owners when, in truth, they never really tried. They hadn't bothered to record the vehicles' VIN (serial) numbers, run them through the Motor Vehicle Office's database, or pick up a phone book and contact the owners.

A number of NOPD officers, while on paid details for French Quarter nightclubs, began shaking down the owners for "protection" like big-city gangsters of the Roaring 20s. One officer, while on a private detail in a French Quarter club, looted the club's cash drawer, telling the flabbergasted owner that he was doing an undercover investigation and he needed the money as "evidence." Other officers on bar details, while not stealing or engaging in other crooked practices, were observed to be drinking on the job.

One officer in particular, who had once been fired from the department for theft, then rehired, was regularly shaking down a na´ve foreign-born gas station/convenience store operator. He would demand $100 a week for "protection" and help himself to free food and drinks during his visits. His "protection," according to an article in the Times-Picayune, was nothing more than including the facility on his regular nightly patrol, for which he was already being paid his regular salary.

Other abuses abounded within the department. One officer was kicked off the force for forging a signature on another officer's paycheck and trying to cash it. Incredibly, nine years later, that same officer was allowed to reenter the department's Police Academy until word of it leaked out. One of the treasurers of PANO was dismissed from his position for embezzling over $200,000 from the union's coffers. Many officers were taking their squad cars home with them for private use, filling their tanks at city expense.

One veteran officer, who had risen to the second-highest departmental echelon, that of Deputy Superintendent, began publicly flaunting his exalted ranking. He appeared in public wearing $800 Armani suits, gold cufflinks and other expensive jewelry. It was also reputed that he had an extensive collection of fine wines in his lavish, six-figure home. It wasn't long before the knowledge of his extra curricular activities became a matter of public record. He was linked to Las Vegas mob-based gambling interests and reputed to be a partner in a company dealing in video poker machines and other gaming equipment, just as casino gambling was becoming legal in New Orleans. He was even photographed walking alongside a notorious organized crime figure in the airport in Vegas. When asked to comment on the affluent lifestyle he appeared to be enjoying while a member of one of the nation's lowest-paid police departments, he proclaimed, "I didn't take a vow of poverty when I joined the department."

This particular high-ranking police official, who was later discharged from his duties and drummed out of the department in disgrace, was a member of NOPD's "Old Guard." This loosely grouped cadre of officers consisted of predominantly white veterans whose hiring predated opening the ranks to members of minority groups. Within the department, they formed an exclusive clique and, within that clique were sub-cliques. Officers in these groups had their respective "turfs," mostly those having to do with brokering private details. They were more loyal to each other than they were to their individual districts or the department and its brass, as a whole. They hung together and often covered for each other when citizen complaints were filed against one of their number.

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