Good Cop, Bad Cop

The untold story of Dallas' biggest-ever police corruption scandal

Roper confirms he has been approached by the FBI, which, in the wake of Maples' public allegations, has opened an investigation into Dallas police corruption. But Roper says he has refused to talk. "If I were even remotely guilty, I would cooperate. 'Cause believe me, I know how this system works. But there is nothing there."

Version two is Maples' story. According to Maples, there is organized, systemic corruption in the DPD. "Look at it this way," says Maples, speaking from the same row of cubicles at the Dallas County jail as Quentis Roper. "I've been in jail [since March]. During that time, a narcotics supervisor was arrested [on tax evasion charges], two narcotics officers were arrested for drug possession, a Northwest officer was arrested for selling stolen computers, a Southeast officer was disciplined for brutality. And of course, there's myself and Roper." Maples fails to mention two of the most disturbing cases from the last few years, in which a total of nearly $65,000 in cash came up missing from DPD custody.

Number three is the press-release version, the story adopted by DPD administration, by the district attorney, by most of the police unions, and by a good number of rank-and-file cops. According to this version, Maples and Roper were just bad apples, isolated rogues who were nabbed and got what they deserved, case closed.

Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris could be overheard calling Maples a "liar" during recesses at the former officer's sentencing trial.
Mark Graham
Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris could be overheard calling Maples a "liar" during recesses at the former officer's sentencing trial.

That's the story to which police headquarters is sticking--so tightly that, according to several state and federal law enforcement sources, Dallas police Chief Terrell Bolton told the FBI that the DPD has no interest in reopening its now-closed criminal investigation or pursuing any leads that may have been provided. (Bolton did not respond to several requests for comment for this story.)

And there's a fourth variation, located kind of midway between versions two and three, a view to which many of the front-liners who investigated, tried, or oversaw these cases privately subscribe. Unfortunately, it's this category of people--those with the best knowledge--who, fearing for their jobs, are least willing to attach names to what they have to say. For if there's one rule every mid-level law enforcement bureaucrat knows, it is: No bad PR, please.

"The bottom line is, there's no real will to clean this up," says a DPD officer who testified for the state at Roper's trial and who says he will lose his job if his name appears beside his opinion. "If they were serious about this, they would have a standing agreement with other [public integrity] departments--say, some place like Detroit--that when you have a problem, we'll send in our guys undercover and vice versa.

"Personally, I think what's happened is, the department wants to sweep this under the rug. Because they don't want L.A. to happen here--and it's widespread here in Dallas."

Asks one assistant district attorney who is familiar with the cases: "Do I think there are more corrupt cops out there? Yeah. I do.

"I don't think there is widespread institutional corruption. Here, it's just pockets of dirty cops; I don't think, for example, that all of Northeast [Operations Division] is corrupt. But I do think--in fact, I know--there is reluctance at the top levels of the police department to follow up. They don't want another L.A." (Both men are referring to the notorious L.A. Rampart case, in which five LAPD officers are facing charges, and numerous criminal cases have been overturned because of alleged police misconduct in making arrests, providing evidence, and giving testimony. The whole affair came about because an L.A. cop, who was charged with stealing cocaine from an LAPD property room, began singing about police corruption and brutality in exchange for a reduced sentence.)

A three-month investigation by the Dallas Observer shows that, for a variety of reasons--among them bureaucratic red tape, limited resources, personal animus, and racial politics--the DPD, the Dallas District Attorney's Office, and the FBI conducted only the most superficial investigation into Maples' charges. Among the items that didn't get followed up on: evidence of police brutality, of police planting evidence and falsifying reports, and of cops hiring prostitutes for parties.

In the course of its investigation, the Observer reviewed more than 5,000 pages of internal police and court records and interviewed more than two dozen state and federal law enforcement officials familiar with Maples' and Roper's cases. At best, these documents and interviews reveal a troubling pattern of men in blue looking the other way, from some of Roper's and Maples' colleagues on the street to supervisors. At worst, they suggest that a small number of cops either knew what was going on or were themselves part of the thefts. Yet they are still out there on the streets, protected by a police bureaucracy and civil service rules that make it nearly impossible for the department to weed out crooked cops on its own.

Finally, the Observer's investigation reveals a number of systemic shortcomings at DPD, sloppy procedures that may actually encourage corruption in the ranks. In addition, existing rules often were not enforced. "The system is flawed," says one DPD sergeant familiar with the cases. "You got supervisors supervising too many patrol officers, and so supervisors are not doing what they're supposed to do. You can have all the orders in the world, but if you don't enforce them..."

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