Rogue Police Narcotics Squad in Philly Terrorizing Immigrant Grocers

From the Philadelphia Daily News, a blood boiling article:

ON A SWELTERING July afternoon in 2007, Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and his narcotics squad members raided an Olney tobacco shop.

Then, with guns drawn, they did something bizarre: They smashed two surveillance cameras with a metal rod, said store owners David and Eunice Nam.

The five plainclothes officers yanked camera wires from the ceiling. They forced the slight, frail Korean couple to the vinyl floor and cuffed them with plastic wrist ties.

"I so scared," said Eunice Nam, 56. "We were on floor. Handcuffs on me. I so, so scared, I wet my pants."

The officers rifled through drawers, dumped cigarette cartons on the floor and took cash from the registers. Then they hauled the Nams to jail.

The Nams were arrested for selling tiny ziplock bags that police consider drug paraphernalia, but which the couple described as tobacco pouches.

When they later unlocked their store, the Nams allege, they discovered that a case of lighter fluid and handfuls of Zippo lighters were missing. The police said they seized $2,573 in the raid. The Nams say they actually had between $3,800 and $4,000 in the store.

The Nams' story is strikingly similar to those told by other mom-and-pop store owners, from Dominicans in Hunting Park to Jordanians in South Philadelphia.

It goes on like that, detailing story after story in which this rogue squad of thugs raided an immigrant-owned grocery store, terrorized the shopkeepers, cut the wires to security cameras, then helped themselves to the inventory. In one case, a grocery owner says the same narcotics squad came back for a second raid, but not to look for drugs. They came to confiscate a surveillance video from the first raid, a video that apparently captured the likeness of one of the cops just before he cut the camera's wires.

Also, is it really illegal to sell small plastic bags in Philadelphia? Even if that's the case, it obviously wouldn't justify these tactics. But as Jacob Sullum explained in our February issue, generally speaking, for an otherwise innocuous product to be considered illegal paraphernalia, it would need to be sold in close proximity to something related to illicit drugs, or found in conjunction with an actual illicit substance. Perhaps Philadelphia has a specific law prohibiting the bags, but if it does, that wasn't mentioned in the article.

MORE: This isn't the first time Officer Cujdik's name has been in the news.

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  • Miggs||

    Goddamn it, it's Friday and I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend.

  • ||

    Come on, Radley! It's tournament time and I'm getting out of work early today. What the fuck?!

  • ||

    I expect to see Eric Holder announcing a federal civil rights investigation within the next few days.

    If he doesn't, then I don't want to hear a goddam thing from anyone about how the Obama administration is better on civil rights than the Bushites were.

  • Radley Balko||

    I expect to see Eric Holder announcing a federal civil rights investigation within the next few days.

    According to the article, there's already a task force investigating, and it includes the FBI.

  • ||

    The most chilling aspect of any Balko article is that the activities he actually knows enough to report about are just the tip of a very large iceberg.

    You know, the Rite-Aid near me sells tough little plastic zip-close bags for daily doses of medication while traveling. (Those little pill snap-close containers always break open.) Call the SWAT team! It's time to crack some skulls!

  • TofuSushi||

    I am sure a Civil Rights investigation of the Fascist, corporate bought, 'cops' will begin soon.

    Obama has already shown in just a few weeks in office that he is more serious about Civil Rights than anybody before him and his record proves it.

  • TofuSushi||

    According to the article, there's already a task force investigating, and it includes the FBI.

    See?

  • ||

    And I just got my Season Five set of "The Shield". How can I enjoy my fictional police brutality now, Radley? What the fuck indeed.

  • T||

    As I get older, I contemplate dual layer defenses. I'm thinking your actual security cameras should be disguised, while the visible security cameras are fakes with just enough wiring to seem plausible. That way, stupid criminals and cops (redundant, I know) will go for the visible while the concealed happily records away.

    Of course, I also contemplate command-detonated boobytraps as I get older, so maybe I'm not the guy to ask for advice

  • ||

    The fact they damaged security cameras has to be a defense attorneys wet dream. The only problem is that juries are stupid and not only like cops but hate them dirty foreigners. "Dey tuk ar jobs!"

  • Xeones||

    More like Officer CujDICK, am i right?

    Fucking Gestapo pieces of shit.

  • Reinmoose||

    Holy Fucking Shit

  • ||

    According to the article, there's already a task force investigating, and it includes the FBI.

    Excellent. Thanks for RTFAing for me, Radley. You da man.

    Provisional props to the Obamatrons.

  • Abdul||

    Pennsylvania has a law prohibiting:

    "The delivery of, possession with intent to deliver, or manufacture with intent to deliver, drug paraphernalia, knowing, or under circumstances where one reasonably should know, that it would be used to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance in violation of this act."
    35 P.S. § 780-113; Drug paraphenalia is defined at 35 P.S. § 780-102.

    And let's not pretend that ziploc baggies the size of a nickel are used for stamp collecting or as tobacco pouches. We all know damn well what they're used for.

    From that point of view, the search, seizure and arrest could be valid. However, the fact that several different store owners tell the same story about cameras being destroyed certainly indicates that the drug paraphenalia law was a stalking horse for this group of cops to rob the place blind.

  • Ska||

    They should raid jewelry stores - they use the same bags for selling and returning repaired items, and think of the loot! Fuck the zippos, gucci links for everyone!

  • ||

    The fact they damaged security cameras has to be a defense attorneys wet dream.

    First the dirty cops have to be positively identified. Good luck with that.

    I'm thinking your actual security cameras should be disguised, while the visible security cameras are fakes with just enough wiring to seem plausible.

    And/or do "dummy" on-site recorders, or at least have an off-site backup.

    I would purely love to bust out my backup copy of some fat donut-eating thug reaching up to tear down the video camera. I'd make sure to get some good stills to post on-line and send to all the local media.

  • Unrelated||

    George Stephanopoulos reports via Twitter that AIG's top three financial-products executives and several other officials resigned yesterday, giving the reason "fear for safety."

  • TofuSushi||

    Nice to see some of you coming around to the Left.

    Now, if we only had more monitoring of the public streets, the cops who entered the place could be identified.

  • ||

    I saw the headline and knew who the author was without having to read their name.

    Thanks, Radley. I used to think that the WoD was OK for the harder drugs. You've disabused me of that notion.

  • T||

    George Stephanopoulos reports via Twitter that AIG's top three financial-products executives and several other officials resigned yesterday, giving the reason "fear for safety."

    Somebody cue up Black Sabbath on the PA.

  • ||

    I contemplate dual layer defenses. I'm thinking your actual security cameras should be disguised, while the visible security cameras are fakes with just enough wiring to seem plausible.

    A good point, but I suggest the following refinement. The first-line (obviously visible) security cams and VCR's should be fully functional. This will give the intruders a false sense of security when they review a grabbed tape and are convinced they have erased traces.

    The second layer should employ hidden, wireless cameras, so the intruders can't trace the wires back to the recorder(s). Ideally, the recorder(s) for these cameras should be in adjacent building(s). Recommend multiple recorders for redundancy.

  • ||

    Thought I'd check back in just in case. But yep, H&R comments section is still the neverending TofuSushi show. See you Monday.

  • TofuSushi||

    Tonio,

    Sounds like something to suggest to Homeland Security with a central database of all of the wireless video, for backup.

  • Unrelated||

    "Thought I'd check back in just in case. But yep, H&R comments section is still the neverending TofuSushi show. See you Monday."

    Can't. Stand. Wading. Through. Shit...

  • Unrelated||

    BTW does anyone know where Jennifer and Smacky, et al. post these days (if at all)?

  • ||

    Philly.. Isn't that the town where the mayor burned down a city block as a kind of a Waco warm-up sometime in the 1980s?


    -jcr

  • ||

    Ideally, the recorder(s) for these cameras should be in adjacent building(s).

    No, the recorders should be in a server room somewhere in another country. The equipment in the adjacent buildings should just compress the video and relay it to a server.

    -jcr

  • Bumpers||

    "Philly.. Isn't that the town where the mayor burned down a city block as a kind of a Waco warm-up sometime in the 1980s?"

    Yup, but it was in 1978. They were going after MOVE:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE

  • Bumpers||

    My bad. It was 1985.

  • ||

    Obama has already shown in just a few weeks in office that he is more serious about Civil Rights than anybody before him and his record proves it

    Not yet he hasn't. Two medical marijuana raids have happened on his watch, for one thing.

    -jcr

  • Zeb||

    "And let's not pretend that ziploc baggies the size of a nickel are used for stamp collecting or as tobacco pouches. We all know damn well what they're used for."

    Bullshit. I use them at work all the time. Anyone who needs to sort or package lots of small items will find tiny little bags very useful.

  • Fluffy||

    Zeb is right.

    Virtually every last consumer product I purchase, if it requires even the most modest assembly out of the box, includes baggies of that size - to hold screws, mounts, cords, etc.

    My definition of equality under the law is extremely stringent. As far as I am concerned, if the law requires the judgment, "Well, it's OK for a furniture maker or a hardware store owner or Dell or IKEA to have those little bags, but it's not OK for you to" then the law can go fuck itself.

  • ||

    The baggies are a side issue.
    The main point here, is the way the WOD corrupts law enforcement to the point where they terrorize and burglarize in broad daylight.

  • T||

    And let's not pretend that ziploc baggies the size of a nickel are used for stamp collecting or as tobacco pouches. We all know damn well what they're used for.

    Huh. I bought my last bunch of small ziplocs from the bead aisle at Hobby Lobby. So the HobLob is a den of drug trafficking? Interesting...

  • Dello||

    The ideas you guys are throwing out are sound. The age old concept is: Give them what they expect to find, and they stop looking. Working cameras and VCRs and first-line, hidden cameras and off-site back-up as second line. Memory is SO cheap these days (as are cameras), that a 30 fps system with 4 cameras and a 30 day real-time recorder can be had for a few thousand dollars. When the shit hits the fan, you will MORE than make up the investment.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Wow. I'm trying not to Godwin the thread with a reference to another police force that didn't like foreigners. I'm also trying not to wish a violent, brutal death on these scumbags.

  • TofuSushi||

    Huh. I bought my last bunch of small ziplocs from the bead aisle at Hobby Lobby. So the HobLob is a den of drug trafficking? Interesting...

    Were the baggies near the glue?

    Just sayin'

  • Rex Rhino||

    And let's not pretend that ziploc baggies the size of a nickel are used for stamp collecting or as tobacco pouches. We all know damn well what they're used for.



    I use them to store electronics components. Is that what you are implying?

    I am sure a Civil Rights investigation of the Fascist, corporate bought, 'cops' will begin soon.



    The fascist corporations hate ziplock bags!

  • Abdul||

    Virtually every last consumer product I purchase, if it requires even the most modest assembly out of the box, includes baggies of that size - to hold screws, mounts, cords, etc.

    I've bought consumer goods, some with lots of little screws and nuts, and none ever had zip-loc (as opposed to heat sealed) baggies that were the size of a nickel or smaller.

    I'm not saying that those items don't have a non-drug related use either. I'm sure there are some. But why are they in a North Philly bodega? To support the cottage industry in tiny screw packaging?

    And people who drink out of paper bags on the street aren't concealing alcoholic beverages, they're just insulating their hands from the cold bottles of chocolate milk that are inside, right?

    I understand why drug paraphenalia should be legal (and even drugs themselves), but don't try to sell me a fairy tale.

  • ||

    I'm not saying that those items don't have a non-drug related use either. I'm sure there are some. But why are they in a North Philly bodega?

    Because the customers apparently want them, that's why. What they want them for is none of the store owner's business.

    You have to be pretty far down the WOD slippery slope to think there is anything in the least bit defensible about laws that allow the arrest and imprisonment of anyone for selling a product with multiple uses that legitimate under any definition of the term.

  • libertarian democrat||

    I understand, even if I disagree with, the arguments to keep drugs illegal. I never understood how they could justify banning paraphernalia, since at best it makes using drugs slightly more inconvenient, and that's it. Even less those items that have other uses.

    But I agree with Abdul. They should be allowed to sell them, but the idea that they aren't going to be used mostly for selling drugs is pretty unrealistic.

  • JB||

    Moral of the story: when cops approach you, shoot them in the head.

    For any decent cops, you better start ratting out your crooked buddies, your lives depend on it.

  • ||

    They should be allowed to sell them, but the idea that they aren't going to be used mostly for selling drugs is pretty unrealistic.

    When the Chicago City Council tried to ban them, merchants and shop keepers (tailors, jewelers etc) all came out in droves opposing it because they used them every day. (Tailors put buttons in them, jewelers put chains and rings etc. in them)

    You know every time I buy a quarter of pot it comes in a quart size ziploc bag. So it would be rational to believe that the idea that people put sandwiches in them is a fairy tale?

    Just cuz you and Abdul wrongly think they have no legitimate uses doesn't make it true. They serve a number of legitimate uses regardless of your ignorance of them.

  • ||

    Really, is there any difference between

    (a) arresting some shopkeepers for stocking little ziplocs but not others, because of the clientele of the shop, and

    (b) stopping some cars but not others, because of the race of the occupants?

  • Robert||

    And let's not pretend that ziploc baggies the size of a nickel are used for stamp collecting or as tobacco pouches. We all know damn well what they're used for.


    Yeah: game pieces.

  • ||

    Hmmm, what could tiny, zip-loc bags be doing at a tobacco shop. I'll go way out on a limb here and suggest that they're for holding loose pipe tobacco. The only evidence for this theory is that loose tobacco is often sold in small, zip-loc bags, and that the owners clearly stated in the article that this was their purpose.

  • ||

    Re: the MOVE thing...

    Actually it was '78 and '85...

  • ||

    And don't forget, the spoons you eat your morning cereal and evening soup with also has an illicit drug use. So, guess the silver setting has to go now, huh?

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    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

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