Philly Narcotics Cops Faked Paperwork to Hide Snitches. Hundreds of Cases May be Challenged.

From [] In May 2017, Philadelphia Narcotics Bureau supervisors Inspector Raymond Evers and Chief Inspector Anthony Boyle called staff into a police conference room in Germantown for a mandatory meeting. Evers would later describe it as a “pep talk” to "get better-quality investigations.”

But what he outlined, according to a 177-page August 2018 Internal Affairs report obtained by the Inquirer, was a scheme to flip low-level suspects into off-the-books confidential informants through a process that would evolve into falsifying paperwork, as well as hiding information from the District Attorney’s Office.

Some officers at the meeting described the system that Evers outlined — and that he, in at least three cases, personally oversaw — as illegal and a violation of police directives, according to the report. It sustained allegations Evers abused his authority, failed to supervise subordinates, and then lied during the course of the investigation about it. Internal Affairs also sustained charges against Boyle for failure to supervise, and against two officers for false paperwork.

The Police Board of Inquiry, the department panel that ultimately determines guilt and administers discipline, has not yet held a hearing.

“I was shocked by what the inspector and chief said. … These officers were provided improper instructions involving illegality,” narcotics Capt. Laverne Vann told investigators.

Narcotics Staff Inspector Debra Frazier said the recipe was simple: “Inspector Evers was encouraging the officers to obtain informants by flipping. Persons with a small amount of drugs, he said to put it on a property receipt and say you found it on the highway.”

The Internal Affairs investigation was launched in response to an anonymous letter “from stressed black personnel of the Narcotics Unit.” It echoes claims in a lawsuit against Evers, Boyle, and the city filed by the Guardian Civic League, an organization representing black police officers, and three African American narcotics officers, including Vann and Frazier, who claimed they suffered retaliation for resisting.

In a Thursday interview, Boyle said that he adhered to “legitimate and long-standing law-enforcement procedures,” and that any informant activity he was aware of was properly logged and reported to the DA. He called the allegations baseless, and said he believed Evers, too, had acted properly.

“It is 100 percent about attempts to get nonproductive members of the bureau to become productive or to get rid of them, and definitely a large portion of it, if not the total impetus, is an antiwhite sentiment among some of the minority officers.”

Evers said he would not comment based on his attorney’s advice.

The internal rift could have far-reaching consequences, according to Michael Mellon at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, who said hundreds of arrests made during and after Evers' yearlong tenure in leadership at Narcotics could be tainted.

“We believe that for close to two years the Philadelphia police narcotics units adopted an explicit policy and culture of altering and destroying evidence, hiding witnesses and suspects, and fabricating police paperwork, in an effort to coerce people into acting as confidential informants,” he said. “We have uncovered additional evidence of such activity beyond what is reported in the Evers investigation. This practice clearly violates the law, police protocol, and often the constitution.”

The concern with off-book flipping is it can produce informants motivated to lie in order to evade arrest, and it sidesteps any type of oversight by the DA or police Internal Affairs. But, more than that, it raises questions about what evidence may be obscured in drug busts that involved “flipping” — for example, if police are hiding that there was a second suspect in a house who may have been in possession of drugs.

“It’s impossible to know what the police destroyed or never recorded," Mellon said. “How can the citizens of the city trust that we have not been convicting innocent people?”

Alexandra Natapoff, professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the book Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice, said there’s nothing illegal about a police officer declining to arrest a suspect in hopes of extracting information. But falsifying documents and deceiving prosecutors often leads to injustice, she said.

“The famous problems with the use of criminal informants are that they lead to wrongful convictions because they lie to get a good deal or to avoid arrests themselves," she said. “They continue to commit crimes themselves, because they obtain a kind of impunity as a result of collaborating with the government, so they escape liability and accountability for their own crimes and then the whole process generates a secretive culture in which rule-breaking, cutting corners, and sometimes corruption is more likely to occur, because everyone knows that it’s very unlikely that anyone will find out what the deal was.”

Previous Philadelphia police narcotics scandals have led judges to reverse at least 1,500 cases after it was learned that police lied. More than 890 cases were tossed out since 2012 after a group of narcotics officers were accused of planting evidence, falsifying records, and even committing robberies on the job. Another 125 cases were dropped in connection with Chris Hulmes, an officer who lied about narcotics arrests. More recently, the Defender Association has filed a petition for review of 6,400 cases involving officers on a District Attorney’s Office do-not-call list of problem cops whose testimony wasn’t considered reliable.

Civil rights lawyer David Rudovsky, who reviewed the key points of the Internal Affairs report, said the investigation seemed incomplete, because it failed to establish how widespread the practice Evers outlined was, or how many cases were affected.