When he opened his locker at the NYPD's 42nd Precinct, Officer Frank Palestro was greeted with a symbolic death threat: A mousetrap with his name on it.
Palestro, who was one of three elected precinct delegates to the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, had been outed as a "rat" for reporting acts of official corruption ordered by Lt. Susana Seda, a former midnight platoon commander who is mired in scandal.
The whistleblower "was transferred to another command for his safety," reports the February 24 New York Daily News.
"There's a handful of guys on the job who say they've got my back, but there are also people who won't answer my calls," Palestro laments. "My reputation is shot, but I know I did the right thing."
His reputation is "shot" and his life is in danger from those who supposedly uphold the law because he acted in defense of the truth, rather than out of tribal loyalty to the Brotherhood in Blue. Those who doubt that such choices involve danger to life and limb should discuss the matter with Frank Serpico.
Despite the fact that it is all but unheard of for a union rep to "do things like this" — that is, report incidents of official corruption to Internal Affairs — Palestro explains that he considered himself duty-bound to act on behalf of young police officers who had been ordered to perjure themselves by Lt. Seda.
Among other things, the cops had been required to issue summonses for traffic violations they hadn't witnessed and to tamper with a gun at a crime scene. After agonizing over the allegations, Palestro made three confidential phone calls to the Internal Affairs Board between September and December. The document logging those "confidential" calls was stuffed into Palestro's locker next to the personalized mousetrap.
Lt. Seda, according to Palestro, "told everybody I was a `f****** rat'" because he acted in the interests of the public and conscientious street officers, rather than corrupt figures further up the chain of command. Accordingly, the nine-year police veteran and union rep is being offered protection akin to that extended to defectors from criminal syndicates.
The 42nd Precinct is hardly the only one in the Five Boroughs plagued with official corruption of this sort. Brooklyn's 81st Precinct is currently being investigated by the NYPD "for manipulating statistics to make its cops look like better crimefighters," the Daily News recently reported.
Officers were reportedly told to record felonies as misdemeanors and to ignore complaints from crime victims in order to massage official statistics. One lieutenant has been given the sobriquet "The Shredder" because of his penchant for destroying documents.