SECRET POLICE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT

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1996 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Between 1991 and 1994, during the administration of Mayor David Dinkins, Benjaminson was the public relations official for the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI), and he continues flacking for his old outfit in this breezily written review of what he considers some of the DOI's most interesting cases. He calls the department the city's "secret police," but what he really means is unknown police, because he believes that few people have ever heard of it. Its job in theory is to investigate the corruption within city government, although he argues that except for the Dinkins years, its role has been to whitewash rather than to uncover. Among the more than 20 cases Benjaminson discusses are those of a doctor who faked postmortem exams, "water police" who weren't protecting the upstate reservoirs they were supposed to be guarding, a city official who counterfeited all his personal credentials (from his driver's license to the papers documenting his immigration from Hong Kong), false rumors that the fire department looted offices during the World Trade Center bombing, librarians who stole late-book fines, a commissioner who paid herself two salaries under different names and crooked investigators for city agencies who ranged from restaurant inspectors to employees of the DOI itself. The biggest cases investigated corruption at the Parking Violations Bureau and charges that the city comptroller traded favors for a quick loan to help bankroll a faltering political campaign. Benjaminson claims that with the election of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the DOI again became a "lap dog." The prose style is often glib and slangy. As for the subject matter, it's hard to believe that these workaday civic scandals will interest anyone west of the Hudson or east of Brooklyn. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
An employee of New York City's undercover investigative agency (and former reporter for the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers) here reveals very little about very few cases.

The Department of Investigation does some of the more interesting work in New York: Its undercover investigators look into white-collar crimes and corruption that the police don't have the resources to investigate. Benjaminson (Death in the Afternoon: America's Newspaper Giants Struggle for Survival, 1984) worked at the DOI in its heyday, from 1991 to 1993. The DOI, it seems, typically suffers from in-fighting, corruption, and many of the troubles it was formed to combat, but in 1991 Susan Shepard, who was dead-set on honesty, took command. The cases described here range from a welfare scam that netted $45 million to a parking- meter ploy that resulted in the loss of a lot of quarters. But the stories suffer from both a paucity of compelling material and from a mediocre telling. While Benjaminson is purportedly interested in justice, his real fury erupts when he details the number of times other departments, particularly the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, took credit for DOI arrests. It's sad that Benjaminson has very little to say about the reasons for, and effects of, the light sentences the DOI criminals face. These white-collar criminals, all of whom have looted the city's coffers, get little to no prison time, and some are rewarded—the upstate water police, for example, preferred giving out speeding tickets to actually guarding the state's water supply, and as punishment were given brand-new cruisers. In his desire to claim bragging rights, Benjaminson neglects the bigger picture, and the book comes off sounding like a series of petty complaints.

A catalog of minutiae that trivializes the crimes it reports and the DOI's relevance to New York.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569800904
  • Publisher: Barricade Books, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/15/1996
  • Pages: 256

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