The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
Philadelphia Daily News reporters Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker won a Pulitzer Prize for their series of articles, “Tainted Justice,” investigating police corruption. Their book, Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love, is based on these articles. It reads like something out of a Michael Connelly crime novel where they behaved more like a pair of detectives than journalists.
The story begins in 2009 when a law enforcement source of Wendy’s sent over a drug addict informant, Benny Martinez, to inform them about the illegal activities he had conducted with Philadelphia narcotics officer Jeffrey Cujdik. Readers soon realize that the search warrants become the key that opened up the investigation. With Benny’s help Jeff would fabricate search warrants in order to enter a suspected drug dealer’s house. People might ask why this is a big deal since many times drugs were found in the house and the occupant was a known drug dealer. Laker explained to blackfive.net, “The problem is if you lie with these rules what is to stop someone from lying on search warrants to get into your home, my home, or any law-abiding citizen’s house. This is not how the police should work in a Democratic society.”
But as the reporters investigated further they saw this to be only the tip of the iceberg. Search warrants were used to bust into retail shops owned by legal immigrants under the guise of selling drug-related supplies. After the narcotics team disabled security cameras they would steal cash and merchandise. One shop owner had a hidden backup hard-drive that he later gave to the reporters, which broke the case wide open. Wendy explained that he had lost his store, house, and dignity, while trying to fight this injustice.
A third scandal was discovered in the course of the investigation, how one officer sexually assaulted women. He chose women who were large breasted, demure, and would not fight back. Wendy and Barbara feel strongly that these women were targeted because they were poor. They commented, “Nothing pisses us more than men in power who preyed on vulnerable women. Officer Thomas Tolstoy, nicknamed the ‘Boob Man’ by his colleagues would fondle them, and in one instance shoved his hand up a woman’s vagina. There is no doubt in our mind that these women are telling the truth. We had them come in individually and watch a video of a raid. They all picked out Tolstoy as the abuser.”
Unfortunately none of these officers involved have been fired. These officers still collect their paychecks, the same salary minus the overtime. Although they have been taken off policing on the streets and now are on desk duty they have yet to face any criminal charges, including Tolstoy. The police commissioner’s excuse is that he is waiting for the FBI to make a decision to indict or not. What is ridiculous is this “holding pattern” is now over four years.
Busted is a riveting account of how a few bad cops can tarnish the good deeds done by so many police officers. It explores the drug underworld and exposes how some bad cops became corrupt and thought they were above the law, completely unafraid of getting caught.