Baltimore Police Corruption: Kickbacks from Body Shop

Posted: January 29, 2013 by pdbasinang in Uncategorized
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On May 8, 2012, an article from the New York Times revealed that a group of Baltimore police officers were involved in a scheme to obtain money by leading the accident victims to the Majestic Body Shop in exchange for money. The officers have been running this scheme for about two years when an officer name Jhonn S. Corona made a deal with the owners of the shop, Hernan Mereno Mejia and Edwin Mejia. When an accident occurs, the police were suppose to call for medallion tow trucks that are authorized by the city, but instead they call the Mejia brothers who send non-medallion trucks. The reason why they initiated this plan is because it is simple and easy to earn money. As the scheme progressed from time to time, the numbers of officers involved increased as Jhonn recruited officers and the recruited officers recruited more. According to the case, there were about 59 officers involved in the scandal. Some of the officers would go to a point where they create an “accident” by damaging the cars and then leading them to the body shop. When the plan was compromised because of FBI investigations and a complaint from a towing company employee, the brothers and Jhonn pleaded guilty at the trial and received a sentence of 2 and half years along with about 30 officers.

According to Knapp Commissioner, there are three different types of typologies of police corruption. The first typology explains the types of officer, the second typology explains the categories/classification, and the third typology explains the level of deviance. In the first typology there are three different types of officers which are the grass-eaters, meat-eaters, and the birds. The grass-eaters are the officers who “did not look for graft or kickbacks but passively accepted them as natural perks that were spontaneously on offer” (Punch, 2009). The meat-eaters are the deviant officers who “set out to make deals either of mutual benefit to the parties involved or in aggressive forms of extortion” (Punch, 2009). The birds are the officers who do not want to get involved with the corruption, but at the same time do not do anything about it. If the typologies were to be applied to the group of officers in the Majestic Body Shop case, the officer would be meat-eaters because they were working with another party (the Meija brothers) and both benefit from the corruption. In the second typology there are 9 different categories. They are corruption of authority, kickbacks, opportunistic theft, shakedowns, protection of illegal activities, the fix, direct criminal activities, internal pay-off, and flaking & padding. The category that would fit for the Baltimore officers would be the kickbacks because kickbacks “gain for referring business to particular firms” (Punch, 2009). The final typology has three different levels: externally driven, within the police domain, and system failure. The Baltimore police corruption would be in the ‘within the police’ level under the category ‘volume or conventional corruption’, which is a “wider range of more serious practices such as bribery, kickbacks, and shakedowns” (Punch, 2009), because the scheme is involved with officers with kickbacks.

References:

Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/us/baltimore-police-corruption-case-tests-commissioner.html

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-02-23/news/bs-md-towing-corruption-20110223_1_edwin-javier-mejia-majestic-auto-repair-shop-medallion-towers

http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2011/02/23/baltimore-police-officers-arrested-as-part-of-federal-investigation/

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    You have selected an interesting case study.

    Note that the Knapp Commission, which dealt with corruption in the NYPD, produced only one of the typologies discussed by Punch (2009) – the distinction between ‘grass eaters’, ‘meat eaters’, and ‘birds’. Your application of the category of ‘meat eaters’ to this case is reasonable, given that the activities involved reflective the proactive pursuit of profit on the part of the officers.

    This case also appears to reflect a kickback operation emerging from within the police domain. Generally, good application of the typologies of deviance.

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