The nation is still recovering from the events in Ferguson, Missouri. There have been protests, rallies, and investigations. This is still a scandal for the city of St Louis, one they won’t be recovering from anytime soon. I recently finished reading Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love, which details one of the worst cases of city corruption in recent history. The investigation began in the Philadelphia police department, and the suspected corruption was worst in the narcotic. The investigation revealed that corruption was rampant and widespread in the PPD.
Two Philly newspaper reporters were involved in the investigation of the PPD beginning with Jeff Cujdik, their work made him more hated by the PPD than the criminals pursued by the department. These two women, who had been working for The Philadelphia Daily News, happened upon the story of their careerrs. Over the course of many weeks and months, the newspaper published a series of articles based on their work. Also during this time the newspaper they worked for was on the verge of extinction. It faced bankruptcy, mergers, format and leadership changes. As if the story wasn’t … enough, facing the possibility of losing their jobs was … Ultimately, their work earned them the Pulitzer Prize.
Writers are always looking for a good story. Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker thought this series of article would spark outrage, yet they were surprised to find that the public was shocked with the charges of corruption – and turned their anger on the writers. They seemed to critize them more than the PPD, the public seemed to believe that the ends justified the means. Can that ever be true? They didn’t think so -and I don’t either, not when it comes to corruption in a police department. There were cases of theft, sexual assault, planting false evidence, all within the narcotics deaprtment. What they needed to do was clean house, but that didn’t exactly happen. As evidenced by the fact that the public was more outraged about the exposure of the PPD than with them, change was going to be difficult.
One of Cujdik’s best informants, Benny, approached them with a story. Once the story broke in the newspaper, the FBI was outraged that Benny hadn’t come to them first. Benny wasn’t the most reliable source – but he had been a great informant, often turning in neighbors, friends. Through his work with Cujdik, he was responsible for numerous arrests. (Almost as many as Cujdik himself). In turning in some of these friends and neighbors, he found himself a hated man,
“He’d begun working with Jeff Cujdik in late 2001, after Jeff caught him selling marijuana on a corner. Benny was 35-years old and on probation for a prior drug conviction. He didn’t want to go to prison, so he accepted Jeff’s offer to turn informant…So Benny became Confidential Informant 103.”
As they worked with him, there were other informants who began working with them as well. One disadvantage of going to a newspaper instead of the FBI – these two women could not offer protection. There was incredible bravery on the part of these women in trying not to bring the PPD down, but just get the turth out. There was also incredible bravery on the part of these informants who were willing to risk their lives to tell this story.
I loved, LOVED this book. Way more than I thought I would – even if you’re not a fan of nonfiction, it’s worth the read. It reads more like a suspense novel. The level corruption in this big city police department is shocking. And I will not give the ending away, or the result of the investigation (which coincided with what the FBI was also doing – these two just uncovered the store first).