Stories of shakedowns, brutality, kidnapping, and theft have dogged a group of Philadelphia’s Narcotics Field Unit officers for nearly a decade. Despite multiple investigations, cases against them never stuck, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Federal prosecutors set out to change that yesterday, laying out a sprawling racketeering case against six of the unit’s former members. The charges paint them as rogue cops running roughshod over the rights of their targets, confident that few would believe anyone who dared complain.
As the years went on, the 26-count indictment suggests, Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser became only more brazen. Between 2006 and 2012, it says, they stole more than $500,000 in cash, drugs, and personal property while using extreme force and falsifying police reports to downplay their takes. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey described the allegations as “one of the worst cases of corruption I have ever heard.” He blamed the city’s contract with its officers for his inability to transfer the six officers years earlier, despite suspicions that emerged as early as 2005. Their arrests threaten to throw dozens of their past cases into doubt and reopen a pipeline of civil rights lawsuits from suspects they arrested that has already cost the city at least $777,000.