Brooklyn: Public-Private Arbitrage in the OTC “Drugs For Information” Markets

Drugs-for-Information Scandal Shakes Up New York Police Narcotics Force: the New York Times covers a cop corruption story the way it should be covered: loudly and thoroughly, but factually.


… four police officers in Brooklyn are under arrest in a case that involves paying informants not with cash or leniency but with the very drugs they craved, taken from the dealers who were arrested after the informants pointed them out. Two of the officers were charged in an internal sting last week after another was caught on a department audio tape bragging about the practice in September, officials said.

In Brooklyn, you cannot just take people out to the jungle and shoot them in the head if you think they might be guilty, now or in the future:

Prosecutors have moved to dismiss more than 80 criminal cases because the officers caught in the scandal were considered critical to successful prosecutions, law enforcement officials said, and the office of the Brooklyn district attorney is analyzing about 100 more potentially tainted cases.

We get a full explanation of the disciplinary procedures taken in the case:

Three additional officers have been suspended without pay and stripped of their guns and badges; two others have been placed on modified assignment — they lose their guns and badges but still receive paychecks — and about a dozen more have been switched to desk duty. They will be barred from taking enforcement action, like making drug arrests, until the scope of the wrongdoing is determined, officials said.

High-level heads immediately roll:

Four high-level supervisors have been transferred, and a new commander — Deputy Chief Joseph J. Reznick — has been brought in to supervise the department’s Narcotics Division.

It would be interesting to compare this sort of coverage to coverage of police corruption in the São Paulo-Rio de Janeiro corridor. If I had time.

You will not, I expect, for example, see ranking NYPD officials arguing that if you openly report on and discuss police corruption, the terrorists win.

See, for example,

Although, as the Times reports:

One law enforcement official even called it “noble-cause corruption.”


The concept of using drugs to compensate confidential informants — mainly people familiar with street culture and criminal habits — is not new. Raymond J. Abruzzi, once chief of Brooklyn detectives, who retired in 1996, said it was illegal but commonplace 30 years ago, “mainly because the department did not have a lot of money to pay the informants.”

It is not that New York City is a paradise on earth, after all (though the murder rate is still about an order of magnitude lower than it is in Brazil’s most dangerous urban centers.)

The thing is that we find this sort of thing exceptional, rather than normal — and our press treats it that way. It’s called democratic accountability. We tend to insist on it.

A lot of people here in Brazil insist on it, too. But they are still having a harder time actually getting it.


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