Lie Down with Dogs…
“On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character, or the public trust.” –Indianapolis Police Dept. Oath
Previously in this series: “You Meet the Strangest People…: Richard Lugar, Part V”
Only a day or two after the episode of Drinking the Kool-Aid, there was the episode I’ll call:
See No Evil
Late in the afternoon a guy strode into my office unannounced. He was short, wiry, very intense and he had a disconcerting habit of talking to you without looking at you, then suddenly stabbing you with those dark beady eyes of his.
Without looking at me, the guy told me his name was Jim Calloway (not his real name) and that he was “counsel” to something. The city? The Mayor’s office? I didn’t catch it.
He pulled out a yellow legal pad and said, “Before the Mayor hired you, you were a cop with IPD, right?”
“What’s this about?”
The guy stabbed me with those eyes. “I’m here because the Mayor asked me to be here. You got a complaint, make it.” He nodded to the telephone on my desk.
I looked at the phone, thought better of it, and said, “Yeah, sure, IPD. So?”
“And before that you were an MP for a couple years.”
“My point is, you’ve been around the block as a cop, you’re not a newbie.”
I agreed I wasn’t a newbie and then the guy began firing questions at me about my brief stint at IPD, questions like these:
“Did you ever take anything of value – money, sex, anything – from a suspect who wanted you to look the other way?”
“When you were at a crime scene, did you ever take anything of value that wasn’t yours? Money, drugs, anything?”
“Did you ever demand money or services from a business or individual in return for providing police protection they were already entitled to?”
There were 10 or 12 questions like this and I could feel my face turning red, though whether out of guilt or anger I wasn’t sure.
Had I been a dirty cop? Maybe so. When my partner and I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts, the clerk handed over the donuts and coffee and moved on to the next customer. No bill was ever presented.
But I consoled myself by reflecting that there probably never was a police unit of any kind where there wasn’t at least some sort of corruption going on. The opportunities for graft in law enforcement are huge, the pay is low, and the people you deal with have no scruples about trying to buy their way out of whatever trouble they’ve gotten themselves into.
When I arrived at the 226th MP Company the place was a veritable viper’s nest of corruption. On my first day in the unit my patrol partner told me that roughly every fourth motorist we pulled over would try to bribe us out of getting written up.
“If it’s a guy,” he said, “it’ll be money. If it’s a lady, it’ll be money or sex. It’s up to you whether you take it or not.”
It was sometimes hard to avoid being corrupted. Once I busted a supply sergeant for DUI and it turned out to be his third strike – the guy was going to jail and would lose his license for a year. After he sobered up he called me and suggested we talk about it, “You know, NCO-to-NCO.”
I told him he was wasting his breath, but a few days later my wife called and said a guy had stopped by and dropped off 25 frozen steaks. “What am I supposed to do with these things?” she asked.
I called the supply sergeant but he claimed not to know what I was talking about. “We ain’t missin’ no steaks over here,” he said.
“Well, you better send somebody around to pick them up,” I said. “That little freezer in my Coolerator won’t hold more than three steaks. The rest will just go bad.”
“Throw a party,” he said and hung up. (I did, in fact, throw a party.)
Later, the Provost Marshal (the “police chief” of the MP company) got busted down two ranks and forced into retirement – for corruption – and the MP company got cleaned up. I’m not saying we were Boy Scouts, but it was a lot better. The new PM, Major Callan, ran a tight ship and was obviously a smart cookie, having promoted me to traffic sergeant.
But back to Attorney Calloway and his obnoxious questions. I answered “no” to all of them, to his obvious disbelief. Then he said, “Did you ever observe other officers engaging in any of the behaviors I just described?”
“Never,” I said. A flat-out lie, but who was Calloway to interrogate me about my fellow officers?
Calloway gave me a disgusted look, then said, “I’ll pass this on to the Mayor and he’ll take it from there.” He got up and left. As I watched him go I realized I was wrung out and sweat was trickling down my back.
The next morning I decided to take the bull by the horns. I headed straight to the Mayor’s office and demanded to know what the hell was going on.
“Shut the door,” Lugar said.
Lugar told me that almost as soon as I’d been hired he’d received a call from a senior editor of a local newspaper. The guy told Lugar, very confidentially, that the paper was investigating police corruption in the city, and he wanted to give the Mayor a heads up. It might be embarrassing if the Mayor’s new hire, straight from IPD, was dirty up to his eyeballs.
I assured the Mayor I was clean and he said, “That’s good enough for me.” I never heard any more about the interview with Attorney Calloway. But two years later the Indianapolis Star won a Pulitzer Prize for its series of hair-raising articles about police corruption in the city, including inside the county prosecutor’s office. And those articles had ramifications far beyond the Pulitzer.
The police chief was fired, along with other top officers. A grand jury was impaneled and cops I knew went to jail. Most amazing of all, IPD itself was eventually disbanded and replaced by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department – IMPD. My old police force no longer existed.
Next up: Richard Lugar, Part VII