By Murray Weiss
DNAinfo Contributing Columnist
People are wondering if the NYPD’s ticket-fixing problem is going to be a citywide scandal.
They’re asking because the probe started in the Bronx and Mayor Bloomberg is doing his best to get ahead of a scandal that I disclosed last week involving between 10 and two dozen cops facing arrest and another several hundred likely to face disciplinary action by the NYPD.
Here is the unfortunate reality.
Prosecutors in the Bronx have so many cases involving city officers that they don’t know what to do with them all. The Bronx grand jury simply can’t hear the evidence against all of them. It would be sitting for a year.
In Manhattan, there are cops in Harlem, including highway patrol, who are now targets of the probe. And there still more officers toiling in Washington Heights who are likely going to need counsel before this is over, my sources say. They turned up on secretly-recorded telephone conversations trying to help fix tickets given to friends and family speeding on the West Side Highway or blowing stop signs.
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson has more than a dozen cases involving officers in South Ozone Park and Queens Village and a couple of other neighborhoods who allegedly fixed tickets.
That evidence will all be parceled out to Queens DA Richard Brown, who will convene his own grand jury to determine if criminal charges are warranted.
There are highway cops in Brooklyn who have been caught up in the year-long probe that includes thousands of hours of wiretaps of New York’s Finest made by prosecutors, my sources say.
Brooklyn DA Joe Hynes will be dealing with their fate.
Cops who will need lawyers will rightfully turn to their union for help. But many of the officers who will also need legal advice from union counsel, which will be forced to spend a small forturne on hiring additional lawyers to represent their people.
There is an officer and his wife who have problems in this case. They are union officials. One is with the police officers union in an important Bronx position. He was placed on modified assignment weeks ago. The other is a sergeant.
Last Monday, I reported that this will be the biggest NYPD scandal since the "Dirty Thirty" in Harlem a decade and a half ago, where cops stormed apartments to steal drugs. I said there are some cops facing the loss of jobs and pensions who were considered possible threats to themselves. They fear being destroyed by a single favor helping fix a ticket, and are in such distress they sound like they may take their own lives, according to my sources.
At a press conference after my story broke, one of my colleagues asked Bloomberg about ticket-fixing. It was at a ceremony to rename the Queensboro Bridge after former Mayor Ed Koch.
Bloomberg quipped that Koch had once said there would always be a few bad apples in the bunch. It was not the best idea to reference a Koch scandal — and he had a beauty — while Bloomberg was naming a bridge after him.
Bloomberg did not realize the irony. Koch's great government scandal also involved tickets and centered on the wholesale corruption of the NYC Parking Violations Bureau. By the time the FBI and US Attorney were finished, the Queens Borough President Donald Manes had killed himself and commissioners from half a dozen agencies went to prison.
But that's the world of politics and public relations when you are a mayor trying to minimize another problem — and trying to survive a rocky third term. Something else Ed Koch also knows a lot about.
Bloomberg put another nice spin on things this Monday by also repeating the electronic ticketing system the NYPD now uses, that was implemented last summer, makes them impossible to fix for friends or relatives.
That may be good thing going forward.
But prosecutors have pulled summonses dating back to 2008, scores of them from all around the city.
And unfortunately there will be plenty of work for all the DAs once the grand jury in the Bronx is done.