Originally published on August 2, 2014, at NationofChange.org
The FBI arrested 6 Philadelphia narcotics officers on charges of extortion, racketeering, kidnapping, conspiracy, robbery, and drug dealing. The indictment includes over 20 separate incidents in which the narcotics unit broke the law. Abusing their authority, these police officers allegedly beat suspects, falsified reports, and stole over $500,000 worth of cash, drugs, and merchandise.
The 6 accused officers, Thomas Liciardello, Perry Betts, Michael Spicer, Brian Reynolds, John Speiser, and Linwood Norman, came under investigation after the FBI arrested Philadelphia narcotics officer Jeffrey Walker in May 2013. Officer Walker asked a confidential informant to help him rip off a drug dealer. Instead, the informant tipped off the FBI and participated in the sting against Walker.
While the drug dealer shared a drink with the informant inside a bar, Officer Walker planted 28 grams of cocaine in the dealer’s car. Shortly after leaving the bar, the dealer was pulled over by Officer Walker and arrested for possession of narcotics. Walker took the dealer’s house key, met with his informant, and broke into the dealer’s home.
The FBI arrested Officer Walker as he and the informant exited the house. Walker had stolen roughly $15,000 while the informant was found carrying five pounds of marijuana. Walker immediately began cooperating with investigators.
Officer Walker named 6 other officers in the narcotics unit of committing even worse crimes since 2006. He also named the man overseeing their unit, Lieutenant Robert Otto. Although Lt. Otto has not been charged with any crimes, the investigation is ongoing and could include further arrests.
Officer Thomas Liciardello has been accused of being the ringleader of the corrupt narcotics unit. Philadelphia resident James McIntyre claims Liciardello and Spicer had him wrongfully arrested in 2011 and imprisoned for six months before his charges were withdrawn. Auto-repair shop owner Warren Layre accused Liciardello and Reynolds of breaking into his garage and beating him. Reynolds allegedly aimed a gun at him while Liciardello struck him in the head with a metal pipe and kicked in his teeth.
Walker confessed that he, Liciardello, and Reynolds stole $30,000 from a suspect, illegally detained him, and later broke into his house stealing $80,000 from the suspect’s safe. Walker also confessed to stealing cocaine with Officer Norman then selling the drugs back onto the streets. Officer Norman allegedly held a man over an 18-story balcony, while in a separate incident, Officer Spicer threatened to throw a man off a 35th-floor balcony. They even allegedly kidnapped a man, held him captive in a hotel room, and threatened to kill his family.
“I’ve been a police officer for over 40 years and this is one of the worst cases of corruption I’ve ever heard,” stated Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey.
After Walker pleaded guilty, over 80 drug convictions have been overturned along with the dismissal of hundreds of open cases. If the narcotics officers are found guilty of corruption, hundreds of more cases will be thrown out due to their lack of credibility. Without explaining his decision, last year District Attorney Seth Williams informed the police that his office would no longer prosecute the drug cases involving officers Liciardello, Betts, Spicer, Reynolds, Speiser, and Norman.
All six men have pleaded not guilty in federal court and will be held without bail until detention hearings on Monday.