Reports published last weekend raise questions about detective oversight in the Queens Narcotics division.
According to the reports, three Queens narcotics detectives are accused of filing false charges that they bought $100 worth of cocaine from four men at Delicias de Mi Tierra, a bar in Elmhurst. The cops are being investigated and face up to seven years in prison if they are brought up on criminal charges.
Two hours of video taken inside and outside the club show the cops bought nothing from the men on the night of Jan. 4. The charges against the four have been dropped. Two of the detectives have been placed on modified duty, according to the New York Post, and the third has joined the Nassau County Police Department.
Jose Colon lost his supermarket after the arrest. “I just don't know why they would do this to us. They know who deals drugs on the street, and they just made up everything,” he said.
The defendants have been through six months of hell. It took that long because Colon, who retrieved the tapes, and his attorney had scheduling problems for two months before they met and showed the footage to prosecutors.
The assistant prosecutors evidently never thought to ask about video surveillance. The district attorney has said that the incident may show that better training is necessary.
An attorney representing the defendants said, “No one should be shocked by this. The narcotics investigation system is out of control.”
We hope he is wrong. But facts that have emerged in this incident are shocking. The safeguards that should be in place to protect honest citizens over aggressive and false prosecutions did not work.
At least two of the four defendants are suing the city for the damage done to them. New Yorkers will likely shell out millions they could have used for schools and other public works.
These officers' arrests must be reviewed. The process will cost the city money and the dealers who belong behind bars will walk.