Five high-ranking NYPD officers have filed for retirement in the last two weeks as top cops continue to try to contain the damage from an FBI corruption investigation. The latest, Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez, former second-in-command at Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, and Deputy Chief Andrew Capul, former second-in-command at Patrol Borough Manhattan North, filed for retirement on Tuesday. Both were demoted by their bosses in April in connection with a wide-ranging federal investigation into possible corruption in the upper echelons of the department, as well as in the Mayor's Office, among businessmen and a Jewish neighborhood patrol in Borough Park, and an alleged Ponzi schemer in Harlem.
Capul was stuck on an administrative post and Rodriguez was working the Support Services Division at the time they called it quits, the New York Post wrote.
Last week, three others whose names have been publicized as targets for questioning in the probe put in their papers: Deputy Chief David Colon, Deputy Inspector James Grant, formerly head of the Upper East Side's 19th Precinct, and Deputy Housing Chief Michael Harrington.
So far, 11 officers have been demoted or stripped of their guns and badges in relation to the investigation. Inspector Michael Ameri, head of the Highway Patrol, killed himself last month after federal investigators reportedly pulled records on police escorts provided by his unit. It is not clear whether Ameri was a target of the feds. Officers and community members dedicated a stretch of bike lane outside the 78th Precinct station house, Ameri's former command, to Ameri on Tuesday, the Daily News reported.
Roy Richter, president of the Captain's Endowment Association, a union for high-ranking cops, told the Daily News that no one filing for retirement has internal charges pending, and none "has been identified by federal investigators as a target of their investigation."
Both Capul and Rodriguez have put in more than 20 years on the job, so they are set to receive pensions even if they are later arrested and convicted of felony crimes. Former Borough Park Community Affairs Detective Michael Milici was fired for pleading the Fifth Amendment before a grand jury, and for failing to show up to a departmental trial, but because he had already filed his retirement papers and had put in 27 years, he will keep his pension, his attorney told the Staten Island Advance. Grant, once commanding officer of Borough Park's 66th Precinct, retired less than a month shy of 20 years, meaning he won't receive a full pension.
Colon, Grant, Harrington, and Harrington's onetime boss, retired chief of department Philip Banks are among the officers reported to have accompanied businessmen Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz on international vacations, possibly in exchange for police escorts and other favors. Last month, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he expects more people to be fired, and some to be arrested, as the investigation proceeds.
Corey Pegues, a retired deputy inspector who has written a book about selling drugs as a teenager, escaping with a clean record, and joining the NYPD, knows many of the cops named in the federal investigation. He said that he is not surprised by any of it.
"I've seen this movie before," he said, emphasizing that he did not have inside information about the investigation. "It's NYPD corruption."
During his time with the department, Pegues became an outspoken critic of police misconduct and what he saw as unfair treatment of black and Hispanic people within the department and on the streets. In his book Once a Cop, he writes that gifts were a constant temptation—officers are barred from accepting anything worth $50 or more—starting with restaurant managers trying to give beat cops free meals and growing from there. As a commander, he said, it was not uncommon to be approached by a prominent person and offered, say, a Rolex.
Pegues said he resisted temptation, but that from the sounds of things many others at the top of the department may not have.
"Commissioner Bratton said this is going to be bigger than the Knapp Commission," he said (Bratton told the Post, "You’d have to probably go back to the Knapp Commission days to find [an investigation] that has that focus on the senior leadership of the department."). "Do you know how big the Knapp Commission was?"
Convened by Mayor John Lindsay in response to information about corruption publicized by famed whistleblower cop Frank Serpico and Sergeant David Durk, the commission concluded in 1972 that corruption was "an extensive, Department-wide phenomenon, indulged in to some degree by a sizable majority of those on the force and protected by a code of silence on the part of those who remained honest."
The findings led to reforms of the NYPD, including heightening individual responsibility for reporting corruption, stricter personnel standards, new community relations programs, and increased support for the Internal Affairs Division. Some cops were ousted and officers and civilians were convicted of crimes as a result of the investigation.