By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
But Maples didn't give PI what they wanted. He didn't give them Roper. And he sure didn't give up himself. By now Maples had begun to think better of his hasty decision to talk. It occurred to him that his interrogators might not know everything, and Roper wasn't likely to fill them in. Though under scrutiny, Roper was still denying everything; in fact, he had by then agreed to take a polygraph. (He failed.) But Maples knew Roper pretty well, well enough to bet he wouldn't break. "He's a proud person," says Maples. "Even today, I still think he thinks he can pull this out, maybe through an appeal or something."
Rather than 'fess up, Maples floated a three-monkey version of the story: He'd only seen Roper take money one time, from a safe, and he'd never heard Roper actually admit stealing anything. The way Maples told it, he merely suspected Roper had been stealing, based on the money he said Roper gave him "to keep his mouth shut."
The next day, Maples was polygraphed about his involvement in two thefts, thefts in which he had downplayed his own role. He flunked.
Though they knew Maples wasn't coming clean, PI and the DA's office weren't ready to give up on Maples. And PI had its hands full. Over an eight-week period from December 8 until February 2, PI detectives interviewed every officer or ex-officer who was present during 16 suspicious arrests. They also completed interviews with every Northeast officer assigned to fourth and first watches.
The resulting notes, transcripts, and sworn affidavits don't paint a pretty picture. A good number of the officers at Northeast who hadn't worked on the suspect cases--and thus, had no criminal exposure themselves--knew or assumed the two officers worked "backward," that is, were busting into apartments, stopping people, and searching cars without probable cause.
But among those officers who had worked the suspect cases, none admitted having seen, heard, or suspected anything. This, despite the fact that many of the searches were blatantly illegal; in several cases, Maples, Roper, and other officers effectively broke in and entered without consent. In order to search your home, the Fourth Amendment requires that officers have two things: probable cause to believe a crime has occurred, and a warrant based on the testimony of an informant known to be reliable--not somebody arrested five minutes ago who says the dope's at your place. Cars are a bit easier. As long as police stop you for something other than speeding, they have the right to take you to jail. And if you go to jail, they can impound your car and inventory it--that is, search it.
Of course, by getting written or verbal consent to search, police don't have to worry about pesky Constitutional protections. So the game is to obtain consent by hook or by crook.
In one case, an officer admitted he didn't actually witness consent to search being given, even though he signed a form stating otherwise. Michael Magiera told internal affairs that, while covering Roper and Maples at an East Dallas apartment complex on March 5, 1998, "...Roper handed me a signed Consent to Search form, and asked me to sign it as a witness. I thought this was odd because I wasn't at the apartment to witness the Request for Consent to Search, and there seemed to be other officers there that could have signed it. I dismissed my thought thinking instead that I was least senior officer out there, and this was one of those mundane aspects of police paperwork..."
In another instance, officer Ronnie Anderson admitted in an initial statement to PI and internal affairs that he had falsely signed his name as the witness on the consent to search form for Rosalinda Alvarado's apartment. Less than two months later, in another statement to public integrity, Anderson told a different story--recalling that he had witnessed consent to search being given.
Yet nobody at DPD seems to have cared much. In the name of the drug war, the reality is that these transgressions go on every day; police know it, and aren't about to do anything to stop it. Nor did they care about a handful of miraculous dope findings by Maples or Roper in places already thoroughly searched--some indication that Maples and Roper were, as some of the arrested people claimed, planting dope.
And something else jumps out from the reports and interviews: In several cases, officers--including supervising sergeants--saw Maples or Roper seize money, but never asked them to count it or doublechecked to be sure it all got to the property room. In one instance, Maples and Roper stole approximately $13,000 from a safe while two sergeants were in adjacent rooms in an apartment, supposedly supervising the search. Both sergeants saw the safe, and one sergeant knew that money had been recovered from it, but nobody ever made them count the dough or checked to be sure it got to the property room. In essence, money, guns, and drugs were all being seized on the honor system, without any checks, follow-up, or systematic oversight.
In a particularly disturbing case, witnesses told investigators that Roper allegedly held a gun to the head of a drug suspect named John Harp and played Russian roulette while three officers--Ronnie Anderson, Michael Baesa, and Rodney Nelson--looked on and laughed. "So he takes hold of the .357 pistol that was now on the table and empties all the bullets from it. He picks up one bullet off the floor and drops it slowly into the barrel, spins it shut...then 'Q,' he pulls the trigger, and scares us all to death," wrote a witness named Stonish Jackson in a statement to IAD. Added another witness, Charles Pipkin, "The police who were in the room started laughing."