NYC police ticket-fixing probe nearing end

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2011 3:18 PM
NYC police ticket-fixing probe nearing end

A grand jury is nearing the end of its lengthy investigation into allegations that New York City police officers, including union representatives, abused their authority by helping friends and family avoid paying traffic tickets, two people familiar with the probe said Wednesday.

The panel is in the final stages of considering official misconduct and other charges against a dozen or more officers in the closely watched ticket-fixing case, and an announcement on indictments could come within the next two weeks, the people said. It was unclear whether any of the charges would allege that officers fixed tickets in exchange for bribes.

The two people were not authorized to speak publicly about the proceedings and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Bronx district attorney's office, which is presenting the case to the grand jury, declined to comment.

A spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Al O'Leary, said Wednesday that the union "will not comment until there is some official notification regarding the outcome of the grand jury."

Anxiety over the case has grown amid tabloid headlines last week citing anonymous sources saying that 17 officers already had been indicted. There also have been new reports that an internal affairs lieutenant was under scrutiny for allegedly tipping off officers that they were targets of the probe.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday that it was premature to speculate about how many officers could be charged and the seriousness of the allegations.

"We're going to wait for the grand jury determination before we get into specific numbers," Kelly told reporters following a promotion ceremony at police headquarters.

Union officials have said the investigation has unfairly singled out officers for the unofficial practice _ tolerated for years _ of undoing paperwork on traffic citations before they reach court.

The case evolved from a 2009 internal affairs probe of a Bronx officer suspected of associating with a drug dealer, officials said. While listening to the officer's phone, investigators heard calls from people seeing if he could fix tickets for them, they say.

That led to more wiretaps that produced evidence of more officers having similar conversations. An unrelated drunken driving case in the Bronx provided a window into the secret probe when prosecutors were forced to disclose to the defense that the arresting officer was among those recorded talking about ticket fixing.

According to transcript of the recording, a union delegate tells an officer, "I'll get this taken care of" by having a ticket issued to a girlfriend of the officer's cousin pulled.

Aside from any officer who is charged criminally, scores could face internal charges. In one disciplinary case already decided earlier this year, a former union financial secretary in the Bronx admitted administrative misconduct charges and was docked 40 days of vacation and suspended for five days.

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Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.