PW's look at the week's misdeeds.
John Leca, a Philadelphia cop who left the force after accusing fellow officers of wrongdoing, lost a federal "whistleblower" suit last week that claimed, in part, that police officials denied him a promotion because he broke their blue wall of silence. In the suit, Leca sought the promotion, back pay and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. During an interview in the minutes leading up to the verdict, the 41-year-old told PW stories about ranking officers who let drunk drivers with suspended licenses in possession of cocaine drive away without charges, and about a boss who once encouraged Leca to ignore drugs found on the front seat of a police cruiser. Several years back, Leca claims, a captain wanted to let a tipsy stripper walk away from a DUI accident that killed her passenger. It was incidents like these that drove Leca to wear a wire and videotape fellow officers, documenting internal wrongdoing so he could expose it. But when he went to departmental investigators with the evidence he'd gathered, his peers found out and labeled him a rat. Now, more than three years after he quit the force to avoid firing, a jury in U.S. District Court handed down a decision not in Leca's favor, saying that the city, the police department and several individual officers did not, in fact, punish Leca for going to Internal Affairs. In the wake of last Wednesday's decision, Leca said, "I don't regret doing what I thought was right. There I was at the bottom of the food chain putting it all on the line. I guess I lost." Leca's problems started in the mid-'90s, when he made three visits to the Internal Affairs Division. In 1995, he told department investigators that his sergeant, Gregory J. Hauck, used a racial epithet to describe then-Commissioner Richard Neal. (Hauck got a five-day unpaid suspension.) A year later, he returned to IA with what he thought was proof that 26th District officers essentially let criminals walk in order to keep arrest statistics down. It was after this IA visit that the groundwork for his lawsuit was laid. "They denied my promotion to detective and gave me my first negative evaluation in eight years after that," Leca says. "This was all because I was doing my job. I thought they [the officers] were a danger to the public and were obstructing justice." But after going to IA, he was parceled off to a desk-jockey position reserved for officers who are "pregnant, injured or waiting to be indicted." He lasted less than two weeks in that position before turning in his badge and gun. But attorneys defending the city and police department offered a much different version of events. They said Leca had a tendency to consider any bit of guidance or correction as retaliation for speaking up and would then pen complaint letters to everyone from his superiors to former Attorney General Janet Reno. The list of witnesses in the eight-day trial included Police Commissioner John Timoney and Deputy Commissioner John Norris. In short, the defense said Leca's allegations had no merit. The jury agreed. Though the union wasn't named in the suit, Fraternal Order of Police President Richard Costello disputed those claims as well. "When it comes to crop circles and UFO sightings, I expect him to show up on the Discovery Channel," Costello said. Norris was less abrasive, saying he was happy "the department has been vindicated." Still, Leca says all he wanted was that boost to the detective rank so he could better support his six children. As for what he learned from the experience? "You can speak up. Just be ready to pay the price."
NOTE OF ALARM A group of unknown imbeciles plastered a Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood with anti-Semitic posters last weekend, proving yet again that idiocy springs eternal. City Police Cpl. Jim Pauley says 76 posters with swastikas and the slogan "White and Proud" were found posted along several streets and on a few homes in the Frankford and Mayfair neighborhoods of Philly--areas that have been plagued by similar problems for about a year. The propaganda was found on Algard, Fanshawe, Hellerman, Revere, Robbins, Sackett and Walker streets, and along Unruh Avenue. Listed on the small white posters was a phone number for the American Nazi Party (ANP), as well as a message pointing potential hatemongers to the group's new and improved Web site. Hoping to track down the culprits, police sent the posters to a lab for fingerprinting. "What's unusual about this case is that the posters were handwritten. We haven't seen that before. They usually just print fliers off the American Nazi Party's Web site when they do this," says Joshua Bartash, assistant director of the local Anti-Defamation League. Offering user-friendly hate on its site, the Michigan-based ANP provides printable handbills including "Aryans Awake!" and "Why White Nationalism?" for a confused and impressionable target audience that believes "the only way to shock our people awake is through bold action!" Bartash says those fliers have sporadically popped up in Northeast Philly during the past year but don't usually focus on one particular hate group. "Someone went out of their way to do this. We have to figure out the motivation. It could be one or two people or a larger group. We're not quite sure." Investigators didn't say whether specific homes were targeted or if the signs were just scattered without a pattern. As of press time, nobody has been questioned in connection with the distribution.