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Police Corruption Blues: Red Flags & Black Marks


A Philadelphia police officer stood outside the front door of the department’s headquarters building next to a “No Smoking” sign, cavalierly smoking a cigarette and ignoring the smoking ban imposed by the police commissioner.

While the officer flaunted the department's smoking ban, inside Philadelphia’s Police Administration Building (PAB) department officials were holding a disciplinary hearing for a policewoman charged with an alleged tax scam detailed in headline-making news coverage.

The actions of that smoking-ban ignoring police officer and the tax-scamming police officer each make a mockery of the Philadelphia Police Department’s professed motto of “Honor-Integrity-Service” –- a motto emblazoned in large letters on a wall outside the PAB’s main entrance.

Further, those actions, albeit not comparale in their severity, both symbolize a disturbing reality operative in law enforcement across America: violations by police receive different treatment from the authorities than violations by ordinary citizens.

The tax scam, detailed in reports by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, involved 15-year veteran Officer Elaine Thomas, who fraudulently signed court documents claiming she was related to six persons she obtained houses from. By claiming the sellers were relatives, she was able to avoid paying city and state real estate transfer taxes, since transfers between relatives are exempt from taxation.

Corrupt cops have long been a staple of Hollywood films, but the problem is real and wide-spread in today's AmericaCorrupt cops have long been a staple of Hollywood films, but the problem is real and wide-spread in today's America


Those house ownership transfers included forged signatures from dead persons that Thomas variously contended were her living father, mother and sister, according to real estate documents.

In one transaction, Thomas allegedly claimed to be the sister of a dead woman who was over sixty years older than her. Thomas, who has rejected media requests for comments, reportedly has denied any improprieties.

Philadelphia police officials began an internal investigation of Thomas in June 2012 after the city’s District Attorney, incredibly, declined to file charges against Thomas.

The DA had reviewed allegations against Thomas for five years, a review that pushed off any investigation by the Police Department until completion of the DA's investigation.

The DA did charge two people with connections to those suspect home sales involving Thomas, including a woman who pleaded guilty to conspiracy involving the notarizing of phony property sales.

If the DA’s decision to not charge Thomas triggered suspicions about police receiving different treatment, the results of the police disciplinary hearing for Thomas underlined such suspicions.

Philadelphia’s Police Board of Inquiry only recommended a thirty-day suspension for Thomas after finding her guilty, reportedly for misconduct related to her fraudulently gaining possession of those six properties.


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