By Murray Weiss
DNAinfo Contributing Columnist
The growing NYPD ticket-fixing scandal is about to get worse.
Thirty cops were secretly recorded during the massive probe, and what was heard on thousands of hours of tape goes far beyond just making traffic violations disappear for family and friends. Sources tell me what's yet to come out is potentially criminal conduct:
• Several officers allegedly tried to deep-six domestic violence incidents involving off-duty cops before police headquarters found out.
• Others allegedly tried to quash drunk-driving incidents involving their brethren.
• And still others were allegedly overheard making arrangements for and paying prostitutes.
Evidence is being presented to a Bronx grand jury that's weighing criminal charges.
Two weeks ago, I disclosed that the NYPD has a list of at least 24 cops who cannot even think about retirement until the criminal cases are done and several hundred more officers, maybe as many as 500, who could face disciplinary action from the NYPD.
A source says they include officers in virtually every rank: a chief; one inspector; four deputy inspectors; four captains; 10 lieutenants; 25 detectives; 30 sergeants; and the rest are police officers, many of them union delegates.
I have heard names I know personally.
They are great people, and fantastic cops and public servants. The public cannot fully know how much they sacrifice for the good of this city and what they have done, and risked.
For their careers to now hang on such a tenuous thread is tragic. Let's hope reason prevails. And that only "meat-eaters," as those who were on the take were once called in another police scandal, are the only ones severely punished or deserving of a chopping block.
As I reported last week, some cops are being probed for receiving money, free meals or booze for "favors." Others allegedly had renovations done to their homes or repairs made to their cars or choice seats at sporting events. An executive with the New York Yankees even got a speeding ticket fixed.
Investigators went to the locker of one police union delegate in Lower Manhattan. They recovered copies of 240 tickets covering all of 2010.
There are so many cases for the prosecutors to handle that they have set threshold levels regarding corruption and fixed tickets that will trigger possible criminal charges rather than disciplinary action by the NYPD.
"The number of arrests may be closer to 40 and the number of cases for the NYPD around 500," a source said.
Here is the borough breakdown of the numbers of cops touched by the probe are: 55 in Manhattan; 30 in queens; seven on Staten Island; 30 in Brooklyn; 380 in the Bronx.
These revelations reflect unbridled entitlement and corruption. This is behavior that has crept back into the NYPD culture. Do not listen to spin about ticket-fixing dating back to the horse and carriage. Discretion? Maybe. Bribes and graft? No.
"There is a clear distinction between discretionary (fixing of tickets) and taking gratuities," a union official said.
There was a time — and it was not that long ago — when cops were afraid to even take a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone.
Murray Weiss writes a weekly column for DNAinfo. He is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, columnist and editor, and is considered an expert on government, law enforcement, criminal justice, organized crime and terrorism.