Dirty Cops, Dirty Games

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That same day, Maples finally sat down with Dallas police interrogators--and promptly committed another act of pedicide.

To be sure, he gave them a few good leads. He told them of a beating he'd seen involving three other cops. He gave them details from arrests he'd witnessed, where he thought something was fishy. But because of the way Roper ran his affairs, Maples said, he'd only heard about, not witnessed, many thefts; thus what he knew was mostly from Roper and mostly hearsay. He had, however, attended "get-togethers" with some of the other cops Roper had said were dirty. Maples said that at these get-togethers, Roper had said some incriminating things--talking in front of him and the others about everybody "earning" and being "in the game," as well as the need for secrecy. They were admissions of a sort, and if the story checked out, it provided at least some evidence against other cops. Maples knew a few of these cops by name; others, he said, had been introduced by nicknames, or divisions, or not at all. But, Maples said, he could identify from photos the cops he'd met.

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..."

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Christine Biederman