Dirty cops in small-town America
May 6, 2012 4:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of recent, extreme police corruption in rural or small-town America.

As part of research for a novel, I'm trying to find examples of just how far police corruption can be taken. By recent, I'm talking the last thirty years or so, but the more recent, the better.

I'm less interested in political/graft corruption of the type Joe Arpaio is often accused of. I'm looking for the rural equivalent of "mafia cops," cops who ran their jurisdictions like private fiefdoms, and most especially cops who were actively involved in very illegal businesses like drug-dealing, extortion, covered-up murders and the like. News articles, books, and documentary suggestions all welcome.
posted by Bookhouse to Law & Government (20 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Start with Tulia, Texas.

you can also read about the head of the Contra Costa County (CA) drug task force.
posted by rtha at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not rural but one of our outlying suburbs recently was in the news with some fairly disturbing revelations. This little blurb has most of the names you would need to Google for more details. Pignato (tough name for a cop!) and Rahn were the two most egregious. There was a cover-up of a wrongful death and some witness or jury tampering, I think even Rahn's son was involved. Hope that helps.
posted by karlos at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2012

There is a subreddit on Reddit. Bad cop no donut. It has links to bad cops. I am sure you'll find lots of good stuff there.

Here's a couple headlines you could look up:

Jury finds deputy guilty of lying in videotaped takedown at Tamarac 7-Eleven

Meet Maj. Joseph Floyd, Leading Candidate for Most Crooked Cop in America
posted by beccaj at 4:38 PM on May 6, 2012

This is a little older than you were looking for, but it is such an extreme example it might be worth looking at.

Dirty cops in Athens, Tennessee ruled the county with an iron fist by rigging elections, imposing arbitrary fines, shaking down travelers, getting paid by the state per arrest, and arresting anyone who objected. Things came to a head when GIs returned from the war and organized an opposition candidate who lost despite overwhelming popular support due to fraud. This resulted in The Battle of Athens when those GIs took up arms and chased out the county government by force.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:44 PM on May 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

Arkansas ... several recent cases:

Oct 2011 -- Helena/West Helena, it's a small city (30k?) but five officers were arrested for drug trafficking and other related crimes.

2010 -- Jericho a tiny town with 77 fulltime officers ...

Another story about Jericho and two other tiny towns.
posted by batikrose at 4:51 PM on May 6, 2012

grr... that is 7 (seven) ft officers ... not 77 ...sigh
posted by batikrose at 4:52 PM on May 6, 2012

Just on television a few minutes ago - 60 Minutes, Corrupt Kentucky sheriff brought down by reporters

Sheriff Lawrence Hodge of Whitley County, Kentucky: drug dealer, drug addict, embezzler, gave perps deals to avoid justice, and threatened to kill at least one of the reporters investigating him (and probably actually sent someone to do it.)
posted by XMLicious at 5:04 PM on May 6, 2012

Bell, California is part of the greater Los Angeles area, but if you ignore that, you can call it a "small town." The corruption scandal among the city officials from a few years back was mind-boggling -- city officials granting themselves enormous salaries. The police chief cut a deal with the city manager that was insane, where he was declared to be disabled on the day he was hired, meaning his salary and pension had all sorts of tax exclusions and such.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:05 PM on May 6, 2012

A bit older and less specifically about police corruption than how for decades one man essentially ran an Alabama town as his own personal fiefdom: Lay Down with Dogs: Hugh Otis Bynum and the Scottsboro First Monday Bombing.

(This story would make such a good movie, but no one would believe that shit like this actually happened.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:23 PM on May 6, 2012

Schenectady, NY isn't a small town, but rather a small city of 70,000. It's a deceptively bizarre city, though, one with a decades-long problem with police corruption. As a result, the mayor has openly contemplated declaring martial law, and the NYCLU has dubbed the police force a "rogue organization."
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:24 PM on May 6, 2012

Page County, Va: former Sheriff Daniel Presgraves: "The 22-count indictment, returned in October 2008, accused Presgraves of accepting a $500 bribe to protect cockfighting at a pit known as Little Boxwood, sexually harassing a dozen female employees and using inmates from the jail to work on his and relatives' properties. The indictment also said he conspired to deal marijuana, tipped off a local company about the federal investigation, embezzled $86,410 -- including money extorted from the jail's pay phone vendor -- and attempted to launder about $200,000 through complex bank transactions" --from this Washington Post article.
posted by apartment dweller at 7:27 PM on May 6, 2012

Stoughton MA

2007 - Sergeant David Cohen was convicted of attempmted extortion and witness intimidation. He "abused his police powers in attempting to collect a $10,000 debt owed to his friend by a businessman, Timothy Hills. Prosecutors said Cohen first attempted to reclaim the money as a lawyer in private practice, then used his police authority to force the matter."

2009 - Chief Manuel J. Cachopa was convicted for "acting as an accessory after the fact to attempted extortion by former Stoughton police Sgt. David M. Cohen, who was found guilty on corruption charges."

2010 - Detective Arlindo Romeiro was convicted "for lying to FBI investigators conducting a probe of widespread corruption within the department." (Unrelated to the Cohen fiasco)
posted by Nickel at 8:27 PM on May 6, 2012

A county sheriff who owns a used car lot can launder quite a bit of cash. Also, collecting on bad checks provides a significant amount of monthly cash flow. The guy I know was never busted, so I can't point you to any news articles.
posted by Ardiril at 10:02 PM on May 6, 2012

He had a monopoly on the repo business in that county as well.
posted by Ardiril at 10:07 PM on May 6, 2012

You could read the book or watch the movie with the same name: Rush (setting is Tyler, Texas). Or, here's an article about the affair.
posted by Houstonian at 2:56 AM on May 7, 2012

Not quite "mafia cops," but the Culpeper County sheriff in Virginia may have been part of sending a man to jail for life (recently overturned). He's facing other accusations/problems as well.
posted by kuanes at 3:51 AM on May 7, 2012

He's not a cop, but former Luzerne County, PA judge Mark Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in the federal pen for a bribery scandal involving the sentencing of juvenile offenders to particular privately operated detention facilities in exchange for a kickback.
posted by valkyryn at 7:15 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Cops Are Robbers is the true story of the Medford Savings and Loan bank robbery planned and executed by cops. Also ties into local Mob and cheating on the State police entry exams.
posted by Gungho at 1:38 PM on May 7, 2012

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