Updated 10/28/2011 11:07 PM
NYPD Officers Plead Not Guilty In Ticket-Fixing Scandal
Sixteen NYPD officers and five civilians pleaded not guilty in a Bronx courtroom Friday in connection with a massive ticket-fixing investigation, prompting strong responses from police officials and hundreds who rallied in support of the accused. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
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More than a dozen members of the New York City Police Department pleaded not guilty in a Bronx courtroom Friday in connection with a massive ticket-fixing investigation that many supporters argue is a professional courtesy stretching back decades.
The officers appeared at the Bronx Supreme Courthouse as the indictments against them were unsealed.
Courtesy: New York Times
In all, 16 members of the department and five civilians are facing charges after a three-year internal probe into ticket fixing as favors to friends, colleagues and relatives.
Eleven of those charged are delegates or former delegates and one trustee of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said as much as $2 million in revenue to the city was lost as a result of the alleged scandal.
“They would either remove the actual tickets, the property off the New York City Police Department from the precinct or they would alter the ticket in a manner that would cause it to be dismissible,” said Johnson.
It was also revealed Friday that Lieutenant Jennara Cobb of the NYPD's internal affairs bureau was charged with tipping off the officers about the investigation.
"The allegations here are among the worst. To be aware of an investigation being conducted by internal affairs and to go let others in on it does a disservice to the entire department," said Johnson.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly admitted that it was difficult to have to announce for the second time in a week that officers are being charged with misconduct.
"Those actions are crimes under the law and can’t be glossed over as 'courtesies' or as part of an acceptable culture. They are not," said Kelly. "Those who try to rationalize them as such are kidding themselves, especially if they think the public finds it acceptable."
Kelly added that since the case came to light, the NYPD instituted a number of changes to prevent ticket-fixing in the future. Hundreds of other police officers face departmental punishment for allegedly fixing tickets.
“The total universe of cases, there were about 300. We are in the process of handling the majority of those administratively,” said Kelly.
Many supporters gathered outside the courtroom with signs blasting the proceedings while others voiced their support saying it's unfair to those who have to pay up.
PBA President Pat Lynch said the issue could have and should have been addressed differently.
"Taking care of your family, taking care of your friends, taking care of those that support New York City police officers and law enforcement is not a crime," said Lynch.
The investigation started in 2009 with an internal probe of Officer Jose Ramos, who faces the most serious charges. Drugs were allegedly being sold out of barbershops that he or his family owned, and he’s accused of robbing undercover police officers posing as drug dealers.
Ramos, who is assigned to the 40th precinct, has pled not guilty to drug dealing, robbery and insurance fraud charges relating to the initial case. He is being held on $500,000 bail.
Bronx residents who spoke with NY1 had mix feelings about the scandal.
"To me, I think this all bogus. I think it's a lie. They're just trying to frame these cops. These cops are good cops," said one Bronx resident .
"Just unacceptable. And if they violate the law. They violated the law," said another.
"If it's a scandal then there needs to be repercussions behind it. But I think people need to know that there's truth behind it as well. You don't want to accuse cops for no reason," said a third.