A raft of litigation against members of the Philadelphia police South Narcotics Fields Unit alleging wrongdoing goes back back more than a decade. Despite allegations of about 30 incidents reported as far back as 2002 and $500,000 in settlement payouts, it took years for the Police Department to take decisive action against the squad, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. It didn’t fire them. It didn’t even transfer them. Internal Affairs investigations cleared them again and again. The civil suits and Internal Affairs complaints alleged almost precisely the same wrongdoing that was laid out in detail Wednesday in a federal indictment against six officers in the elite Narcotics Field Unit.
The 42-page indictment said the squad railroaded defendants with bogus warrants, terrorized and assaulted suspects during raids, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and cocaine (reselling the drugs), and generally acted as a law unto themselves in 22 episodes over seven years. Lawyer Michael Pileggi, who has brought about 20 suits against narcotics officers since 2003, said police brass and a weak Internal Affairs Division gave them a pass for far too long. “There should have been bells that went off suggesting that these guys had to be scrutinized,” Pileggi said Friday. “They should have had some mechanism here for transferring these guys to another unit. They certainly were on notice.”