Police narcotics units 'reshuffled'

Commissioner Charles Ramsey approved the consolidation plan in wake of accusations against some narcotics officers.
Commissioner Charles Ramsey approved the consolidation plan in wake of accusations against some narcotics officers.
Posted: April 03, 2009

Two Philadelphia police narcotics field unit squads - including one at the center of an ongoing federal and local probe - have been folded into other narcotics units.

Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn yesterday described the move as a "reshuffling of the deck" that will allow for better supervision of the officers.

The consolidation plan, approved by Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, came after a series of Daily News articles exposed numerous accusations of illegal behavior by Narcotics Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and other cops.

"Narcotics is one of those units that requires a small span of control because they deal with search-and-seizure warrants, confidential informants and other high-risk situations," Blackburn said. "In light of the articles and the scrutiny the Narcotics Bureau is under, we felt this was necessary."

Cujdik and nine other officers who worked in Squad 9, and five officers from a different team, are being dispersed among 10 remaining narcotics squads.

"It's not out of the norm for us to rotate people into different units," Blackburn said. "This is more about them having a higher level of supervision."

Each of the 10 squads will have a at least a sergeant supervising operations, he said.

In a 2002 report that examined police enforcement of drug laws and made recommendations for preventing systemic abuse, Ellen Green-Ceisler, then director of the Police Integrity and Accountability Office, concluded that narcotics officers and supervisors should be regularly rotated.

Green-Ceisler, now a judge, found that police departments across the country require rotations to keep officers honest.

Cujdik, a 12-year veteran, is at the center of an expanding federal and local probe into allegations that he lied on search-warrant applications to gain access to suspected drug homes and that he became too close with his informants. He rented a house to one and allegedly provided bail money to another.

After the Daily News series began detailing the allegations in February, authorities formed an investigative task force composed of FBI agents and police Internal Affairs officers.

Cujdik remains on desk duty and was forced to return his police-issued weapon.

The Daily News also has interviewed 14 store owners who said that Cujdik and fellow officers destroyed or cut the wires to surveillance cameras during raids.

The store owners said that after the wires were cut, cigarettes, batteries, cell phones, food and drinks were taken from the stores.

Some store owners said that they watched as the officers smoked cigars that they had taken from the shelves or slurped refrigerated energy drinks.

The officers also confiscated cash from the stores - a routine practice in drug raids - but didn't record the full amount on police property receipts, the shop owners allege.

A video of one of the raids obtained by the Daily News can be seen on philly.com. Cujdik and fellow squad members are seen using a bread knife, pliers, milk crates and their hands to disable the surveillance system of store owner Jose Duran.

Although there is no video of the alleged looting, Duran says that officers seized nearly $10,000 in the raid, but that the property receipt filed by the officers said that they had confiscated only $785.

The officers arrested the store owners, including Duran, for selling small plastic bags that police consider drug paraphernalia.

Under state law, it's illegal to sell such containers if the store owner "knows or should reasonably know" that the buyer intends to use them to package drugs.

Meanwhile, public defender Bradley S. Bridge said that he intends to file motions in Common Pleas Court today on behalf of about 25 convicted defendants, some of whom remain in jail, asking the court to reopen their cases. *

Staff writers Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman contributed to this report.

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