It’s not a new idea, by any stretch of the imagination. At worst, it’s a variation on an old theme. Target those who are hated and helpless, steal from them and, boom, Profit!!! How long it worked for Suffolk County Police Sergeant Scott Greene isn’t clear, but it’s over now.
Sixth Precinct Sgt. Scott A. Greene was arrested during a sting operation after stealing a $100 bill from a car driven by an undercover Latino officer, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said Friday.
Moments later, the uniformed patrol officer was caught on videotape taking the money from an envelope on the passenger seat, then folding the bill and stuffing it in his left sleeve.
Greene, 50, of Shirley, who earned $147,200 in 2012, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday and was released without bail.
This is a variation on a theme that gave rise to the Dirty 30 scandal in the NYPD, there involving drug dealers. It bears all the same hallmarks and suffers from all the same systemic faults that make it such a sweet bit of corruption.
The core of the corruption begins with the powerless, the hated, the group of people who no one, neither public nor judiciary, care about. The set up is that a cop, Greene in this instance, but available to any cop so inclined, need only pick on someone whose claim of being victimized by police corruption will fall on deaf ears.
Complaints are ignored, whether because they come from the bad dude who is retaliating against the cop who nabbed him, or nobody cares. In the “us versus them” culture of police, it’s easy to understand why the cop will be believed and the criminal won’t. But in the “us versus them” culture of society, the same is true for the rest as well. The Latinos targeted are the gardeners, the laborers, the ones paid in cash for the day of service. They are transient, potentially here without documentation, disinclined to go running to the district attorney and unlikely to be believed if they did.
Somehow, Greene’s corruption caught Spota’s attention. Perhaps this was like the Dirty 30, where the complaints came in sufficient quantity and detail that they could no longer be ignored. Perhaps they had reason to suspect Greene was up to no good. The reason will likely come out eventually.
The nature of this sort of corruption, sadly, is inherent in a system which puts blind faith in the integrity of police to the exclusion of those likely to be the victims of corruption. Corruption of this sort is different from other types of misconduct, the more ordinary excessive force, and involves an aspect of moral turpitude that many cops would never consider, some always do. It’s just too easy to do, too sweet a deal. Plus, they’re stealing from people who deserve it, whether because they’re unworthy in the eyes of the cops or are deemed inherently bad people. Or both. Or neither, and just easy money.
The point is that corruption of this sort is the root of a great many evils, not the least of which is an antagonism between disfavored groups and the police that breeds lawlessness, disrespect and anger. And not to go too orthogonal, but there are also great similarities between this corruption and civil forfeiture, where the money may not go into the cop’s pocket, but the victim loses his money all the same.
It’s not as if one harm is better or worse than others, but that this is one that continues to present itself because of the disparity between how police are credited relative to non-police. We give the cops a license to steal, if they choose to avail themselves of it. And while they don’t do so all the time, they do so from time to time, and continue to do so.
Not that it directly relates to anything else here, but notably Sgt. Greene was released without bail. What are the chances that any of his victims would have been released without bail if arrested on a similar charge? And the distinction continues, because the system can’t get it out of its head that cops are different. They are, of course, but not necessarily in the way the system would have it.