- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2002

DALLAS Turmoil within the Dallas Police Department heightened late last week as authorities attempted to find out how and why narcotics officers paid more than $200,000 to an informant who fingered scores of suspects, many of them evidently not guilty.
Police Chief Terrell Bolton placed two veteran narcotics officers on leave as he disclosed that his public integrity division was re-examining at least 70 cases.
The purchases all reportedly emanated from a single, unnamed informant, and in most of the cases, what was said to be cocaine turned out to be crushed Sheetrock.
In fact, officials disclosed that nearly half the cocaine seized last year by Dallas narcotics officers and nearly one-fourth of the methamphetamines were gypsum, from wallboard.
Several of the charged suspects, all Hispanics and some not fluent in English, pled guilty. A few were deported to Mexico; others are in prison.
When the situation was first disclosed by the Dallas Morning News, the police chief vowed to re-examine the busts and said he had ordered an internal investigation.
As public anxiety grew, Mr. Bolton announced that he had asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate.
On Thursday the DEA announced that it would not pursue a criminal inquiry, but instead merely advise Dallas on policies and procedures.
"The DEA doesn't do public corruption investigations," said Paul Coggins, a local lawyer who for eight years in the 1990s was the U.S. attorney here. "I think ultimately," he said, "whether invited or not, the FBI has to get involved."
Mr. Bolton, who has had strained relations with the FBI for years, said he didn't think the bureau needed to be involved. "This isn't a bank robbery," he said.
But across town, district attorney Bill Hill thought differently as his staff pored over dozens of suspect cases. On Friday he asked the FBI to step in, and Bureau officials said they would begin an investigation tomorrow.
Within hours Mr. Bolton held another press conference, saying he would cooperate with the FBI. He said he expected the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Internal Revenue Service to help also.
Mr. Hill announced that he felt the public concern over these drug operations has cast doubt "on the integrity of the entire criminal justice system." He said his office would dismiss 59 cases involved.
Mr. Hill said his office hereafter would have all narcotics evidence tested by a lab before any indictments were forthcoming. Past policy has been to test if and when the suspect was about to go to trial.
Lori Bailey, spokeswoman for the Dallas FBI office, said that its investigation would include not only the police department but also the district attorney's office.
Several defense lawyers said that Dallas police trusted questionable informants and had a "numbers" mentality. "They're so concerned with the numbers and making cases," said Richard Carrizales, "that even when there are red flags, they don't check them out. [Informants] are paid a lot of money to do this, so they don't have to work. The people they lead officers to are usually immigrants."

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