Most people probably think that planting evidence isn’t something that really happens. It’s the stuff of movies and fast paced tv dramas. Not according to former NYPD narcotics detective Stephen Anderson. Anderson was busted planting evidence in a case in 2008. He has since turned state’s evidence and testified that the practice of setting up suspects and planting drugs, known as “flaking” was a common practice he saw used, and used himself throughout his time at the NYPD.
The practice is definitely not sanctioned by police agencies, however, it has come to light more than once in recent years. Planting evidence to achieve an end has probably been around since the dawn of policing. Just last year, a Detroit Police Sergeant was caught on video attempting to set up a local scrap metal shop. Another case from Utica NY drew widespread attention when a dash cam video clearly shows an officer pull a large bag of what appears to be a powdery white substance from his back pocket, then emerge from the passenger side of the vehicle with the baggie in tow.
Stephen Anderson leaving court in 2009.
Probably the most famous case of crooked cops is that of Michael Dowd. Dowd not only planted evidence, he actively robbed drug dealers and then resold their stolen product on the street. Dowd’s superiors at the NYPD knew about his behavior. They knew about the red corvette he drove to work in. But they shielded him to hide the department from a scandal. Dowd was eventually arrested by another agency and served several years in prison for his crimes. Corrupt cops always seen to get caught and their punishments severe, however, this doesn’t seem to be a deterrent as Detectives like Stephen Anderson prove.
Anderson shouldered the blame for a department that he says regularly engaged in “flaking” or planting evidence for the purpose of meeting arrest quotas. Arrest quotas are illegal in this country, but even if they are not written into the fabric of every police agency, you don’t want to be the guy with the least arrests. Anderson was caught planting narcotics on four guys in a bar in Queens New York. He was aiding another detective who needed to hit his quota. The department had quotas on everything from arrests to “stop and frisk” reports. Officers would manufacture stop and frisk incidents in fear of being reprimanded for not hitting them. Anderson provided the drugs to his partner Henry Tavarez so he could make the bust. In all eight cops were nabbed as part of the false arrest scheme.
Anderson’s case brought to light not only individual police corruption, but institutional corruption in the form of quotas that officers are forced to adhere to. The end result being innocent people going to jail and having their lives ruined by a system that encourages police to take short cuts. Only a complete overhaul of the policing system in this country will we ever put an end to police corruption and the devastation it leaves in its wake.