By Murray Weiss
DNAinfo Contributing Columnist
I understand how hundreds of cops got caught up in this NYPD ticket-fixing scandal.
That's because I have now heard some secretly recorded tapes of cops fixing tickets.
Fixing tickets is like teaching children. It takes a village.
In one conversation I heard that lasted less than 2 minutes, at least four cops are implicated in fixing two summonses. On the tape, two cops are talking on the phone about a third officer, who loaned his car to his daughter and her boyfriend, who apparently got a ticket.
"Anything further on the officer's car that he gave his daughter and her boyfriend?" a police union representative in the Bronx asks, referring to getting the ticket fixed. "I don't know if they have a holdup on this thing...at the 25th Precinct" in Harlem.
The rep then provides the identification number of the cop who wrote the ticket, and the reason the ticket needs to be killed. The "boyfriend" apparently needed to keep the violation off his record.
"[He wants] to be a cabbie and wreak havoc on the city," the union rep quips.
The two cops go back and forth for a few moments before the union rep realizes he has the wrong cop.
"I don't think you mentioned [the ticket] to me," the officer on the other end of the call says.
But before they hang up, the officer reminds the union rep that he did, in fact, help out with a different summons.
"You talked to me about that other guy," the officer said. That "guy," my sources say, happens to repair kitchens.
"Oh, that one," the union rep cheerily said on the tape. "That was a home run. But I did not get a call back on this one here."
The rep realizes he needs to call a different cop about the ticket.
And there have to be more who tampered with the process before the tickets could go away.
In all, about 30 police officers were bugged during the year-long investigation, my sources say. That number and level of eavesdropping is rarely heard of outside an organized crime probe.
I reported Tuesday that on the thousands of hours of tapes are conversations about getting and paying for hookers. Some cops tried to kill domestic violence incidents and drunk driving cases involving off-duty officers. There is also evidence officers took money, meals or had their homes and car fixed for doing ticket "favors."
An executive with the New York Yankees got a speeding ticket fixed last August killed before it went to court.
Dozens face possible criminal charges. Hundreds more will be disciplined by the NYPD.
A lot of cops have already gone before the grand jury to admit wrongdoing. Most of them are appearing as witnesses granted immunity to lay ground work to zero-in on real criminal targets. A few of those targets are also talking, my sources say.
Mayor Bloomberg finally acknowledged on his weekly radio program that there is a big scandal brewing after trying to downplay the scope of the problem since I first reported it on April 12.
Bloomberg suggested there were just "a few bad apples" in the NYPD, but this will be the worst NYPD scandal in two decades, since "The Dirty Thirty" cops were raiding apartments to steal drugs.
The mayor believes the new electronic system of handling tickets put in place last summer by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly should virtually eliminate the practice.
But the officers did not pause to reflect why there was a new system. They merely kept killing tickets by getting cops to not show up in court, or by changing their stories.
"After the scanner went into effect, cops would forget notes for court, or they altered names and license plates so they did not match," a source said.
The practice now will stop because people are getting caught.
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.