Betrayal in Blue: The Shocking Memoir of the Scandal That Rocked the NYPD-Burl Barer, Frank C. Girardot, Jr., Ken Eurell and Kevin Pierce
Nearly twenty-six years ago, New York City Police Officer Michael Dowd was arrested by the Suffolk County Police Department in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for the possession and distribution on narcotics. His arrest, trial before Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York and testimony before the Mollen Commission solidified Dowd’s reputation as the dirtiest cop in NYPD history. Arrested with him were other officers, drug dealers and other participants. Ken Eurell was retired at the time of his arrest but during his active tenure, he patrolled the streets of the Seventh-Fifth precinct with Dowd and embarked on a path of corruption that is still unbelievable to this day. The duo recounted their life of crime in the 2015 documentary The Seven Five. Undoubtedly, Dowd is the main focus and his recollections are backed up by Eurell and the other former officers. This is the story from Eurell’s point of view about how and why he found himself more deeply immersed in crime with Dowd.
Eurell starts off by explaining his family history and how he joined the NYPD. Hi story is relatively straightforward and certainly non-eventful until he crosses paths with Dowd. Corruption had already existed and as Eurell points out, it was quite widespread throughout the department. Incoming officers were forced to learn on the quickly and those who made the decision to inform on dirty cops often faced a career derailed from being ostracized. Dowd is not just corrupt but takes everything to the extreme and is blessed with a mind geared for exploiting every angle possible. It does not take long for Eurell and Dowd to begin to pull off numerous capers and form a working relationship with two of the biggest drug dealers in East New York.
I lived five blocks from the 75th Precinct and remember when the story broke. Prior to Dowd’s arrest, there at had been stories of arrest at other precincts of cops that engaged in corruption of all sorts. Most of the people in the neighborhood were not surprised as most of the officers from the “75th” were considered to a bunch of cowboys. Having read this account by Eurell and that of Internal Affairs Investigator Joseph Tromboli in his book Good Cop, Bad Cop, the moniker of cowboys is a huge understatement. They were nothing short of out of control and Dowd was on a mission to self-destruct and might have succeeded in the end if not for Eurell’s decision to cooperated with authorities.
The book is shocking at times but I do think Eurell and the authors were right about what East New York was like during the 1980s and 1990s. Having lived there at the time, I can say with all honesty that the neighborhood looked like a war zone. Poverty was rampant, murders common and the police struggled with containing the constantly increasing criminal elements. But what happens when the cops are part of the element? Through participation with Adam Diaz and Baron Perez, Dowd and Eurell had crossed a line from which there was no safe return. East New York, described by officers herein as the “Land of F*ck”, was hell on earth and the problems that plagued the neighborhood extended far beyond the reach of the NYPD and led directly to City Hall. Today, those days are long gone and the landscape bears no resemblance to what it used to look like. Vacant lots have disappeared, crack-cocaine is no longer the drug of the street and the faces of the NYPD are now more diverse. But the 75th is still there at 1000 Sutter Avenue and for older residents, the place that was once the source of the dirtiest cops in all of New York City.
Today, Ken Eurell no longer lives in New York, having relocated to Florida as he attempted to put his life back together again following the fallout after Dowd’s final downfall. As he tells his story he is candid about what he did, how he was seduced by the lifestyle and the pain he inflicted upon his own family. He does not ask for sympathy, freely admits where he went wrong and never portrays himself as a victim or hero. This is simply his part of the story and I think a good supplement to Tromboli’s book and the documentary. I would go as far as to say that if you have watched the film and read Tromboli’s book, then his is another piece of the puzzle. Some of the information is revealed in other places but I do think Tromboli’s book contains a bit more because it is told from the side of Internal Affairs so he is able to convey what was known about Dowd and when NYPD brass knew it. Some readers might be tempted to ask how did they get away with it for so long? The answers are in the book and they just might surprise or even shock you. But this was New York City in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was one of the most dangerous cities in America before gentrification arrived.
I often think about my childhood and early adult life in East New York. Many of my friends have long left the neighborhood and I no longer live there myself. But we all carry many memories and they will remain with us for the rest of our days as I am sure they will for Dowd and Eurell. The East New York they knew is different today and if the City is successful, it will be unrecognizable to them in just a few years. But no matter how much transformation occurs, the dark history of corruption within the Seven-Five will remain in its history.
The arrest and subsequent conviction of former NYPD Police Officer Michael Dowd highlighted the perils of decades long corruption that plagued many precincts in the New York City Police Department. Dowd and several other officers had engaged in a multitude of crimes ranging from narcotics trafficking and possession, armed robbery and accessories to murder . Several had even violated department protocol by appearing for work under the influence of alcohol or narcotics or sometimes both. When the scandal in the 75th precinct made headlines, a whole city was stunned and for many, it confirmed many of their beliefs about the NYPD being a corrupt agency full of crooked cops. The fallout from the scandal would force Mayor David Dinkins and Police commissioner Lee Brown to act quickly. The Mollen Commission was created to investigate the pattern of police corruption that had been plaguing the City of New York. Its final report was published in July, 1994 and remains freely available for those interested in one of the darkest periods in New York City history.
One nagging question that never went away was how was Dowd and the other cops allowed to operate for so long without being noticed? The official story was that their activities were well hidden from prying eyes. However, the late Mike McAlary (1957-1998) who worked for the NY Daily News for 12 years, brings us the story of retired officer Joseph Tromboli who pursued Dowd for several years before he was apprehended by Suffolk County detectives in a separate drug trafficking case. And what we learn in Tromboli’s story sheds light on the repeated failures of the Internal Affairs Division of the NYPD to remove Dowd from the NYPD and formally charge him with the many crimes he had been freely committing. A seasoned investigator and no-nonsense officer, Tromboli dedicated his life to catching down and in the process sacrificed his own happiness and many important parts of his life. His efforts however, were not in vain and upon the publishing of the scandal in the City’s newspapers and the Mollen Commission that followed, Tromboli would be vindicated as the cop who had tried but was prevented from bringing down the most corrupt cop in New York City history. This is his story and the good, the bad and the ugly side of the blue wall.
When Heriberto “Eddie” Seda was apprehended on June 18, 1996, the residents of East New York, Brooklyn and the detectives tasked with finding him breathed a sigh of relief. For six years Seda terrorized East New York and the City of New York in a murderous rampage intended to mimic the infamous Zodiac Killer that terrorized California in the 1960s. When Seda was arrested, I was 16 years old and lived several blocks from the 75th Precinct, which was tasked with patrolling the neighborhood that had become recognized as one of the worst parts of Brooklyn. The shootings became the topic of discussions among my father, friends and classmates in school. We had been warned by our parents to be vigilant and report anything we saw or heard that was out of the ordinary. Kieran Crowley, a former reporter for the NY Post, was assigned to cover the story and spent hours in East New York interviewing witness and countless more hours reviewing documents and articles. He has put together the only account of one of the most heinous killing sprees to terrorize New York City.
The book was written in 1997, roughly a year after Seda’s capture. And at the time it was published, Seda was still waiting trial. Since then he has been tried, convicted and is currently incarcerated at Great Meadow Correctional Center in Comstock, New York. He will not be eligible for parole until 2081 and will never again roam the streets of Brooklyn.. For the younger generation of East New York, Seda’s name is unknown but to the older generation, his name conjures up memories of a dangerous time in East New York to which they never hope to return. Crowley’s investigative report is the definitive account of the crimes and Seda’s life and the wave of terror he inflicted. The dysfunction and mental instability and degrading relationship between Seda, his mother and sister are covered in detail providing the necessary back story to the infamous crime spree that gripped a neighborhood. Many years have passed since East New York was paralyzed with fear but Seda’s reign of crime remains with us reminding us of the many horrors that once plagued New York City.
Periodically my father will reminisce about his childhood in East New York, Brooklyn. and sometimes I’ll pass through my old neighborhood on my way to visit my grandparents. Today, much has changed and a large majority of the people I remember from that time are gone, but he violent and shocking memories will always remain. By the time I grew up in East New York, the demographics had far changed. Rarely did I see any faces in the area that weren’t Puerto Rico, Dominican or African-American. The Caucasian faces were mostly Police Officers, Firemen, EMTs and missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints. As kids, we often heard stories about the gangs that roamed East New York waging turf battles with each other using, knives, zip guns, car antennas and anything else that could be used to inflict pain. The stories seemed unbelievable at the time but after reading this book, I have a whole new understanding of the place I once called home.
For over 60 years, the streets of East New York have been some of the most dangerous in Brooklyn. Quarantello takes us back in time to the era when East New York had begun its social decline with gangs having taken over the streets and the Vietnam War was heating up with the government drafting thousands of young men into the armed forces. Readers that are familiar with East New York, currently live there or are former residents will find this read fascinating, shocking, and nostalgic. The level of violence is high but the book is an important piece of East New York’s history and gives mention to many street names, landmarks and old businesses that will be familiar to many readers. Personally, I know all of the streets mentioned in the book and can attest to the fact that at the time I lived in the area, the streets were just as dangerous with a whole new set of gangs roaming the area. And instead of sticks, pipes and bats, guns were the primary weapon of choice. The social decline had become greater and during the 1980s and 1990s, East New York was at its lowest point. But there is hope and the City of New York plans to invest into the neighborhood the resources and capital that are long overdue. I hope to have my father read this book and get his thoughts on that time in his youth and what he remembers from those days in relation to Quarantello’s story. The book is a tough read at times and the level of violence and social tensions described in the book are not for the faint at heart. But this is one man’s story of his youth in one of Brooklyn’s most feared and misunderstood areas.
It’s been several years since I lived in the East New York section of Brooklyn. The neighborhood is considered to be one of the roughest in Brooklyn and is the target of the DeBlazio’s administration’s plan for redevelopment. The area purchased by John Roberts Pitkin in 1835, is one of the most misunderstood areas in the City of New York. I still vividly recall memories of my childhood, both good and bad as if they happened yesterday. I and many of my friends no longer live in the area. Some of them still live in the city, but others have moved to other states and abroad. They are now fathers, husbands and wives. But no matter where we go in life, we will always trace our roots back to this unique and tragic neighborhood.
Lately I’ve been curious about the history of East New York and decided to give this book a read after seeing it in my list of recommendations on Amazon. The late Walter Thabit, a community activist and urban planner who was instrumental in the creation of many low and moderate-income housing, tells the story of how East New York, the area once filled with prosperous European immigrants became a low-income war zone filled with drugs, poverty and death. And it is a story that is shocking, appalling and infuriating. President Kennedy once gave a speech about the differences in the chance of success in life between white and minority babies at birth. It’s as if he was looking straight at East New York when he said those words. Governmental neglect of the social and economic issues, white flight and racial discrimination set the stage for the transformation of East New York from a promising area to a ghetto.
The 1968 amendment to the Federal Housing Authority which allowed the government to control mortgage contracts in the area, resulted in the foreclosure of homes across the area and paved the way for the destruction of many blocks which had nothing but flat open space on most of the blocks. The centralization of the public school system combined with the power and influence of the UFT continued the systematic policies that had an adverse effect on the education of minority children throughout the city making East New York was a place in which hope did not exist and quality of life was an unheard of concept. In recent years, the area has seen a turnaround with new buildings and improvements. It’s darkest days are in the past, but they should never be forgotten and serve as reminder of a place and time which we never wish to revisit. The efforts of Walter Thabit, Leo Fiorentino, Rev. Johnny Youngblood, Granville Payne and many other residents to bring peace, equality and success to East New York are examples of what can happen when people work with each other as opposed to against each other.