"On the Inside" has reported for months that the simmering investigation into NYPD ticket fixing was creating so much fear and tension within New York’s Finest that some cops were suicidal and others were throwing punches at each other.
Caving under that pressure, Officer Robert McGee became the first to try to end his life when he grabbed the third rail of a Bronx subway track last Wednesday.
With 30 years on the force, McGee was just weeks away from reaching the mandatory retirement age of 62. But his life was placed on hold by the NYPD. His name, sources say, was on a list of two dozen officers who had come under a ticket fixing criminal cloud. They were told they could not retire until it was decided whether they would be indicted or not.
Last week, with the grand jury finally winding down after five long months of hearing evidence, McGee received word that he was no longer the target of criminal charges.
That was supposed to be the good news.
The bad news was that he had to testify not only before the grand jury, which he did last week, but at any trials of brother officers with whom he had allegedly helped fix tickets.
For McGee, who is also a union delegate at The Bronx's 43rd Precinct, the thought of testifying against fellow officers and union officials caught up in the scandal was too much to bear, sources say.
The NYPD was aware of how fragile McGee was for quite awhile, sources say, and had recently taken away his guns. They were able to do so because he had put in for retirement and had been identified as being under stress. There are others on the verge of cracking who were on the list and placed in this torturous position.
A month ago, "On the Inside" reported that a parade of NYPD blue was going into grand jury hearings with immunity. None wanted to be there. Like McGee, few had little choice because prosecutors had the evidence to indict them if they wanted. Like McGee, they are the fortunate ones.
Now the grand jury is poised to indict as many as 20 cops and sergeants. They are not the fortunate ones. They are under pressure. With few exceptions, they are all still on duty and armed with NYPD issued weapons until their fates are determined. Only then can they be suspended.
How the Bronx District Attorney and the NYPD handle the dangerous endgame of this long, drawn-out grand jury process may prevent or result in yet another suicide attempt.
“It is always a worry that someone will eat their gun,” said a source familiar with police corruption investigations, recalling several other high profile cases such as the so-called “Buddy Boys” and the “Prince of the City” cases where cops took their own lives.
In this ticket-fixing scandal, the targets know by now who they are and hopefully have been prepared for this next dramatic step.
For its part, the NYPD will try to confront the ones who are indicted when they show up for their next tours of duty. They will be informed they have been suspended and must surrender their weapons.
They also will have their NYPD identification cards replaced so they will no longer have access to purchasing weapons at gun shops.
Some will be asked to surrender through their lawyers.
“But there are always dangers when in cases like this,” the source said. “It comes with the territory.”