Police and prosecutors could have put Stephon Wallace in prison for years, after they say he was caught with 18 baggies of crack cocaine last year. But the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office dropped the charges when the arresting officers got into trouble themselves – indicted in a corruption case, reports the Baltimore Sun. Instead of prison, Wallace – who was already on “double probation” for separate handgun and drug violations – was handed his freedom. Months later, police said, Wallace, a suspected member of a Bloods gang, murdered a man. For law enforcement officials, the case illustrates the painful fallout felt for years, when a police corruption investigation prevents officers from testifying against suspected drug dealers and violent criminals and forces prosecutors to throw out hundreds of cases.
Police corruption “affects everything, from A to Z,” said Eugene O’Donnell, professor of police studies at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It affects the way you investigate serious crimes. It affects public confidence. It affects recruiting of officers. It affects minor interactions of citizens and police. It gives aid and comfort to bad guys. That’s why good cops really hate corruption, because it really makes their job difficult for a very long time.”