Safir has pushed to dispose of bad cops quickly, through departmental charges instead of criminal prosecution, which saves the NYPD money, the risk of a bad cop's poisoning the force, and ugly publicity. The worry among prosecutors is that the opportunity to find larger patterns of corruption, through flipped cops, may be lost in the bargain. "IAB may be more willing to pick off an individual dirty cop," says Joseph Armao, the Mollen Commission's chief counsel, who is now at the law firm Squadron, Ellenoff, Plesent & Sheinfeld. "But if anybody took any lesson from the Mollen Commission, it is that the nature of police corruption is conspiratorial. They act in groups, for self-preservation. Why haven't we seen more group prosecution?"
"Will we be able to prevent what happened in the three-oh, a whole precinct going rogue?" Bratton says, sounding as if he's still in charge. "I think we will. Much as I'm comfortable saying crime's not going to go back up in this city."
Federal law-enforcement officials praise IAB's efforts, but they aren't quite so confident. They're in the delicate first stages of building a broad corruption inquiry from tips provided by an undercover informant. "There's a couple things," one Fed says ominously, "that the office is looking at right now."
Flawed procedures and hardware—such as the three-years-overdue-and-counting installation of a computer system to track corruption allegations—handicap even the dedicated cops in IAB. But the will to hunt down misdeeds is equally important. And morale inside IAB is terrible.
One pillar of the Kelly reforms was allowing IAB to "draft," for a two-year tour, any officers on a career path to sergeant or lieutenant; the cop is required to accept the assignment. The theory: New blood boosts the bureau's energy, and the more people who pass through IAB, the less hated the place becomes within the NYPD.
It's a nice theory. But in practice under Safir, the two-year tours are not exactly distributed equally. "Special qualifications" allow cops to skip straight to the detective bureau. "What it means is, your special qualification is you were born into a family who has a deputy inspector in it," says one cop. "People who have no hooks, politically or by blood, have to do two years. The department publishes these things called personnel orders—transfers and promotions—so you see who's getting around it. The mood of the people who are here is absolute misery and noncooperation. You're constantly having your nose rubbed in the dirt of the fact that the reason you're here is that you don't know anybody, kid! So you're gonna sit outside that restaurant for the next six nights making sure those cops pay for that meal!"
Combine the resentment of younger cops with the lassitude of many of IAB's holdovers, and the mood is resoundingly glum. Phones at the action desk have been ringing wildly since Abner Louima hit the headlines. One sergeant is responsible for judging whether each of the thousands of allegations goes into the pile labeled CORRUPTION or the one labeled MISCONDUCT. Four years after Internal Affairs was supposed to be fixed, the path from action desk to action remains treacherously potholed.