Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police wants a Pulitzer Prize-winning Daily News series put under the microscope. Union officials say an anonymous source has claimed that reporters might have paid off sources.
The series “Tainted Justice” reports a group of Philadelphia narcotics officers fabricated evidence, looted bodegas during police raids and, in some instances, sexually assaulted shop employees.
At a Wednesday news conference, John McNesby, president of FOP Lodge 5, said investigative reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman may have given money, paid utility bills and provided diapers to sources who accused the officers at the center of the 2009 series.
“We are asking that this potential travesty of justice not be swept under the rug. We do not know whether or not the claims made against the two are true. If so, such conduct must be answered for,” said McNesby.
McNesby would not reveal any details about the union’s source or what supporting evidence may exist.
He said the Pulitzer Prize should be removed if the allegations are found to be true.
“People’s lives were ruined here,” said McNesby.
In a statement, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, interim publisher, said the Daily News stands behind the series and has seen no evidence that the reporting of Laker and Ruderman was inaccurate or unethical.
“Our company does not take allegations of unethical behavior lightly, and I can assure Mr. McNesby that if such ‘sound evidence’ exists, we will pursue it,” said Lenfest.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says, if true, the allegations could impact how the department deals with the officers in the future.
“It could certainly impact the outcome of the cases. I’ve taken disciplinary action against these officers and it could certainly cause us issues during an arbitration, which I’m sure this issue will be raised during an arbitration,” he said. “So I do have concerns.”
Ramsey has fired one of the five officers. Another is off the streets pending the outcome of an investigation by the city district attorney’s office.
The remaining three officers are now back on the street after being disciplined.
Federal and local prosecutors have not filed any criminal charges against the officers.