NEW YORK CITY — The NYPD is cracking down on cops who are no-shows in court for criminal cases, a preventative measure to avoid another potential scandal akin to ticket-fixing, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.
In a department-wide memo obtained by "On the Inside," cop supervisors are instructed to "ensure that the Internal Affairs Bureau is notified" if a police officer fails to appear in court.
The action comes on the heels of a massive ticket fixing scandal where cops were killing tickets for friends, relatives or fellow cops by simply failing to appear at Traffic Court.
Internal Affairs should also be contacted if "one or more cases were dismissed due to uniformed members' non appearance," according to the Interim Order, issued back in April.
Most of the time, cops have a valid reason not to appear in court — they were sick, or on vacation, or off serving in the military — and those are fine, the memo said.
But sources said there are always instances in which the officers just don’t bother to show up.
“It happens way too often,” one veteran prosecutor said. “I had an officer who did not show up four times in a shoplifting case”
Another added, “Sometimes it's just because someone does not like the prosecutor on the case, or he is lazy.”
Several police sources said the new initiative was a logical “next step” after the NYPD was rocked by the ticket-fixing fiasco that led to the arrests of 16 cops.
Unlike fixing a traffic summons for speeding or running a red light, however, the people who would be cut loose in criminal court as a result of the AWOL cops are real miscreants accused of such things as trespassing, loitering, petty theft, smoking pot, harassment, purse snatching, disorderly conduct and other quality of life offenses.
They are the criminals who make up the “meat and potatoes” of the daily criminal court calendar, as one source described it.
The NYPD makes hundreds of thousands of arrests each year, and the number of cases lost because of this negligence represents a small percentage of the total.
Officials also point out that serious felony cases such as murder, rape and robbery — where prosecutors and the NYPD work closely building cases — are rarely lost because a cop failed to show.
While no one can say just how many cases are dismissed because of this problem, sources estimate that it is somewhere betwen 70 and 100.
"The fact is we should not lose one case because an officer does not show, that is the point,” one top law enforcement official said. “Letting a criminal go free because an officer has an attitude is unacceptable.”
According to the departmental order, supervisors have to clock cops in-and-out of court and even “supervise (their) conduct in the court building.”
Prosecutors must be notified immediately if an officer is unable to appear. And for those with no excuse, Internal Affairs is to be notified.
According to police sources, the new court initiative may be having an impact already. Since the order came out a couple of months ago, no officer has been reported to IAB for improperly missing a court date.
In the NYPD ticket fixing probe, investigators uncovered a culture where tickets were killed by the thousands. In the wake of the scandal, the NYPD created a new Internal Affairs unit to monitor traffic court to track cops who failed to show and to examine summonses that were dismissed.
The NYPD also implemented an electronic computer tracking system for tickets to also make it harder for cops to fix them.