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by Peter Moskos

February 24, 2011

Tow Me

So here's the longer story in the Sun.

What I don't get (there's a lot I don't get), is how could officers get a kick-back of $300 per car? The tow company would need to charge more than that. And the article says that approved towers are only charging $130-$140 dollars.

When I needed to tow a car, it was pretty simple. You tell dispatch you need a tow. A moment or two later KGA (dispatch) would tell you to wait for one of three(?) companies that towed from the Eastern. And then you waited. And waited. And eventually a nice older man would show up and tow the car. End of story.

Seventeen Baltimore Police Officers have been charged (just 5 live in Baltimore City). Eleven or 12 have hispanic names. Normally I wouldn't point out the ethnicity... except that the B.P.D. made a big recruiting effort in Puerto Rico a few years back. I'm not certain how many officers were hired. I assume most are good officers. I'm also assuming (but do not know for sure) that many if not most of these arrested officers were part of that recruiting push.

I mention all this because I've heard bad things about these officers since the day they were hired. But since I know none of them personally, I've been a bit dismissive of these complaints, considering them more likely to be rooted in anti-Puerto Rican attitudes than in any actually fact.

I might have been wrong.

If there's a moral in this (other than to trust what my friends tell me), perhaps it's this: do not hire too many officers at the same time. If you do, you will have to lower standards. If you lower standards, you will hire bad cops. It's not like this is the first time this has ever happened (Miami and New York City have had similar experiences). It's not unique to Baltimore. Or, for that matter, Puerto Rico. Though as US citizens go, the police in Puerto Rican do seem to have more than their fair share of problems.


Gotti Rules said...

Hey Pete,

I don't know about you but I am always blown away when I hear about officers doing this kind of stuff. We never seen or heard of officers doing this kind of stuff in our squad. I even working several years after you left and I can honestly say I never saw any officers ever doing anything like this.

Jeff N said...

The article says the city authorized tow trucks charged that amount. It doesn't mention how much the illegal tows cost. Plus add in storage fees that start right away.

What I don't get is why they call it extortion.

Unless the cops put some pressure/threat on the car owners to not use the offical trucks.

Gotti Rules said...


Sorry for the same post twice. I never said that I was the smartest guy in the world.
But I too was wondering how this is extortion?? The article didn't say if the cops used any threats to make people use the tow trucks.

PCM said...

Legal city-approved towing is just a form of extortion as well. Especially if somebody in city government gets a kick-back (not that anybody in local government would ever be corrupt).

It seems to me that an officer very well could offer motorists a better choice.

But it also is clear to me, as a former officer, that even if "everybody wins," it is clearly forbidden and should not be allowed. Police officers should not be out there wheeling and dealing like Monty Hall.

But depending on what actually happened, it may indeed be much less a crime than "extortion."

Nate said...

The autoshop could afford to payoff that much because of the increased volume coming into the shop. The shop might be passing some of the costs onto the car owners, but probably not all of it as that might be too obvious.

It's the car owners getting extorted, not the shop. I'm sure it was the shop's idea, and one of the cops got chummy with the shop owner Moreno awhile back and the scheme spawned from that. Read the indictment, it's hilarious and sobering at the same time.

Anonymous said...

These officers are morons. They actually thought that a scheme involving 30 officers would stay under the radar forever?

PCM said...

That is the moronic part! Regardless of just how extortion-like-or-service-provided their operation was, clearly every cop knows taking a kick-back from a tow agency is not allowed. Did they think they would get away with it till the day they retired? Not a chance.

I can't think of a worse way to keep secret than having 30 cops and money (or free food) involved!

Anonymous said...

Who started the Puerto Rico recruitment?