Good Cop, Bad Cop

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But Maples' testimony had shaken up more than a few people, and behind the scenes, everyone was scrambling, championing versions of The Truth.

Broadly speaking, they fall into four categories. Variation one is Quentis Roper's story. Although a jury found him guilty of pilfering a breathtaking $144,000 from 10 people he'd arrested, Roper insists he is innocent. Echoing Cruiser and Bruiser's claims eight years earlier, Roper and his supporters say it's all a terrible mistake, that Roper was framed by a defense lawyer and his drug-dealing clients, railroaded by a racist district attorney's office, put away by a political judge. And Roper has the support of a surprising number of DPD rank and file, especially black officers, many of whom see in Roper's case the same troubling patterns they've seen in others: a black cop convicted on what they regard as flimsy evidence.

As for Maples, Roper has a ready answer. "Maples is crazy," Roper says from behind Plexiglas in a visiting booth at Lew Sterrett, where last May he began serving his sentence. "He is not living in reality." According to Roper and his defenders, in some cases money was probably not stolen at all; in others, it was most likely stolen by Maples, acting without Roper's knowledge. And what of that "subculture of crooked cops?" "That's fairy-tale shit," says Roper, with some passion.

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.

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.)

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Christine Biederman