Prompted by reports that a group of narcotics officers took thousands in cash and merchandise from mom-and-pop stores during raids, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey last night assured Dominican community leaders and merchants that he will stand tough against misconduct.
"Corruption of any kind will not be tolerated in this department, period," Ramsey said. "And those who engage in it are going to face charges both from the department as well as criminal charges."
Immediately, loud applause broke out in the crowd at the Hunting Park church.
"That's the language the community needed to hear," Danilo Burgos, president of the city's 300-member Dominican Grocers Association, said after the meeting.
"I think it's a step in the right direction to create justice in this city and rebuild confidence," he said.
The Daily News uncovered allegations that a group of narcotics officers destroyed or cut the wires to surveillance cameras during store raids. The officers said they were in search of drug paraphernalia, specifically little plastic bags. But after the cameras were disabled, wads of cash, cigarettes, sodas, candy, batteries and other merchandise went missing, merchants said.
The allegations are being investigated by federal authorities and a local task force.
"This group of police officers who came into my store were not police officers," said Obdulio Martinez, whose store was raided in 2007. "They were thieves."
Ramsey promised a thorough, objective investigation. He also said he would attempt to boost the number of Hispanic officers and encourage cops on the force to take a 10-week Spanish class.
"As troubling as this situation is . . . it gives us an opportunity to come together and build a better community and better Police Department," he said.
City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez said a task force comprising community leaders and members of the Police Department would be established to ensure that all possible victims and witnesses are interviewed.