New York police offer not-guilty pleas in ticket scandal
More than a dozen police officers began pleading not guilty to charges stemming from allegations they voided parking and traffic tickets for friends, relatives and associates in exchange for gifts and other favors.
The streets outside the courthouse in the New York borough of the Bronx were jammed Friday with hundreds of supporters of the officers. Some waved signs that read "It's a courtesy, not a crime." Many were members of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn., which has accused the Bronx district attorney of unfairly targeting police for what the union has said was a long-accepted, harmless courtesy.
Some also accused the New York police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, of not supporting the officers and chanted "Ray Kelly, hypocrite!" Across the wide street, meanwhile, scores of other people gathered to heckle the supporters of the allegedly crooked cops, hollering, "Fix my ticket!"
A total of 16 police officers and five civilians were entering pleas following an investigation started more than two years ago when investigators looking into a possible connection between a policeman and drug dealers overheard phone conversations indicating tickets were being fixed. Read the latest on the courtroom proceedings in this update from the Associated Press.
Overnight, police arrested Jose Ramos, an 18-year veteran of the police force, along with his wife. Other officers began surrendering late Thursday and early Friday as news spread that charges were imminent.
"It's a disgrace if the allegations are true," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on his weekly radio address Friday of the case. "But it's a tiny percentage" of the department, he added. The New York Police Department has some 35,000 officers.
-- Tina Susman in New York
Photo: Supporters of police officers charged in a ticket-fixing scandal crowd the hallway outside a Bronx courtroom. Credit: Richard Drew/Associated Press.