NYPD’s Most Infamous Cop
The Road to Redemption
By Daniel Del Valle with Erika Blue, Steve Olimpio and John Welsh
Everyone in law enforcement knows of the NYPD’s most infamous cop Michael Dowd who in 1992 was convicted of racketeering and conspiracy to distribute narcotics and sent to federal prison for 12 years and five months. Dowd’s criminal acts while an officer has angered good cops for nearly three decades. There is no sugarcoating his past. As you see on our cover, The Daily News has called him the “dirtiest cop in N.Y.” Then and now his life and reputation are defined by the crimes he committed as a cop in the 75th precinct. However, is there a lesson to be learned? Is there any use for Dowd’s story or should he be shunned for life, cast out into the desert never to be seen again? Many cops have mixed feelings about this.
Blue Magazine boldly takes an aggressive approach to all issues involving law enforcement. Cops committing crimes is a serious matter that will destroy an officer’s life and family, so pay close attention to this interview and the consequences of Dowd’s actions. It may save your life and career.
Dowd tells how he started out well-meaningly and at some point opted to betray the public’s trust and disgrace the badge he wore once proudly on his chest — Dowd’s upfront with his past. “There are no excuses for my behavior,” he told Blue Magazine. We agree. Dowd further stated, “I am responsible for them (criminal behavior), and I take full responsibility.”
Dowd believes his life has a lot to offer. After many years, post-prison, working in the construction industry and living with the consequences of being a cop turned felon, he is on the road to redemption. “Evaluate me for who I am today,” Dowd told Blue Magazine. Dowd now works to steer young aspiring cops away from the temptations of greed. He speaks widely at different colleges and shares his story, hoping the next generation of officers will see how his bad decisions have destroyed his life, the life of those he loves and the law enforcement profession, with one goal: that future cops will wear their badge proudly and honor their oath of office.
The Blue Magazine sent out an investigative team to interview Mike Dowd and to get his story first-hand.
Danny: There are officers today who may ask why would The Blue Magazine want to interview a man such as yourself? What are your thoughts when you hear that, and what would you tell cops who ask that question?
Michael F. Dowd: First, I want to say that I am sorry that they feel that way. I think that I have something to offer whether you like what I did or didn’t like what I did. I still have something to offer cops that can prevent them from being like me.
Many cops out there feel like I am a piece of shit but you also have to understand that many guys on the job make mistakes all the time that could lead to a serious incident to occur such as drunk driving. So many do this and think nothing of it until they hit and kill someone. Do you believe that the parent, husband, wife of the person that was killed would think that cop's less of a piece of shit than I am? I say no since that action killed their loved one. They would say I rather have had a cop stealing than someone who just killed their loved one. I am not trying to minimize what I did. I know what I did was bad but there are other things that are being done all the time by people who judge me. And believe me, I've been dealing with this for many years. Would you want people to think you are a piece of shit forever? I am just looking for a little fairness like any human is entitled to after they pay for their crimes.
Danny: What was the illegal action you did in the police academy?
I was asked to fraudulently sign documents by another recruit for an injury that he sustained at home. I signed those papers so I knew I would be accepted.
Danny: Tell me more about this?
Okay. I did that because I did not want him to get kicked out of the academy because his injury did not take place there. He asked me to lie and say that he jammed his finger with the desk so he can be covered. I wrote a report that I saw this incident take place at the academy. I did it in order to go along with what felt like was the right thing to do. Also, if I did not do that report and help him, I felt my career would have been horrible since no one would have respected me and thought of me as an asshole for not helping out a brother.
Danny: When did you start the job?
January 26, 1982.
Danny: How old were you?
John: At what point in your career do you believe that if you stopped and resigned that you would get away with it?
Up until the last month.
Because all they had on me were unsubstantiated allegations for years or uncorroborated testimony by people who are incarcerated and they are not going to take their word over a cop. I knew the Feds had a case open on me in 1988 so unless someone close to me went down, they had nothing on me. At that time I could have retired or walked away from the job up until the point they had Kenny Eurell on the wire. That’s when things changed.
Danny: When you were exposed, when it all came down, tell us about that feeling.
It was May 6, 1992 and it was right after Rodney King and it was all over the news. They put us on Rodney King duty going around buildings that no one was breaking in. What they were really doing, and I didn’t know this at the time, they were pulling me off the radio because they were already on me and they knew I was going to get locked up. I walked into the precinct and they tell me to report to the so and so, I think it was a captain. So I turn around and there’s the badges in my face, “Internal affairs were here for a drug test” and then they surrounded me and walked me downstairs to my locker. These guys were really on me and I couldn’t even put in my combination.
So now I’m looking at my locker and in there is my off-duty revolver, cocaine, and some more cocaine, and I’m thinking should I leave the cocaine in my locker with the cash or should I just put on my pants that has 5 grams of cocaine in them. So, I put my pants on and I couldn’t even get dressed because the guy was so close to me. And I’m like, “Dude can I get dressed?” They get me in health services to take the drug test. They open the door and it’s filled with cops. And I’m thinking I can dump it here maybe… where am I going to dump it now? At this point I’m still hopeful! I still had hopes that I was going to be able to walk away from this.
Danny: Okay, but tell us more what it was like being arrested as a cop?
I was relieved. For me I was living a double life. It was torture. So I got in the back of the patrol car and I felt like I was with my friends—I felt like these guys sort of rescued me from myself. I was thinking the jobs over, I’m done, no big deal. I'll know in a week, the results of my drug test, no big deal. i'll contest it. I’ll lose, but the bottom line is, it’s OK, I just lost the job. But that obviously was not the case.
Steve: So the next morning you wake up…
Steve: What happens in jail, Mike, as a former cop?
It was bad. Officers treated me like shit. It was personal. But I understand. But they needed to understand I was entitled to due process.
Danny: Yeah, but you were dirty, though.
Doesn’t matter! Due process! You don’t deserve it?
Danny: You do deserve due process, but don’t forget you were the dirtiest cop out there. Do you not expect these cops to think and act that way?
The charge was that I was involved in a drug conspiracy; that’s the charge. Many people get accused of being involved in a crime. Many people do. Officers get accused all the time of taking payoffs from drug dealers that they have never taken. Do we agree with that statement here? Drug dealers were taught especially in the ‘80s to make a complaint against a cop. See, I tried to use the whole logic to my benefit.
Steve: Mike, were you a dirty cop all the time or did you do good out there? Were you able to separate the two and when you were on patrol were you still able to help people?
Yes! I was doing my job. I was one of the best cops on the street, cop wise. They loved me. Cops wanted me to back them up.
Steve: How were you able to balance that?
Drank a lot. My family was destroyed because of it. We make choices in life. Greed or no greed. Do what you have to do. Greed kills.
Danny: Do you do drugs?
Danny: Do you drink alcohol?
I’m sober, 23 months now
Danny: What was prison like?
It was 24 hours a day, 7 days a week looking over my shoulder.
Steve: How long were you in jail?
I did the 14-year federal sentence, which is 12 ½ years.
Danny: Would you do something criminal for money today?
No, I wouldn’t. I feel like the cleanest guy in the room since I paid for the crimes I committed. When I dealt with the Feds I needed to come clean on everything because if you don't and they find out they can charge you with other crimes. That is why it's important you tell the Feds everything once you are working on a plea to make sure nothing haunts you later. I know who I was before is not who I am now. I paid for my crimes by serving prison time. This is why I feel like the cleanest guy in the room because all my cards are on the table.
Danny: Is there anything of the old Michael Dowd in you today?
Well I do like excitement, so I’m still a little bit of an adrenaline junkie, and I miss the street, so I would say that there is a part of me that misses the connection to the police world.
Danny: In your opinion, what do you have to offer a cop today?
Well I have the experience of being in whatever position they’re in. For example, if a guy out there has done something corrupt, just listen to my story and stop what you’re doing. Stop it. And if you think you’re going to be corrupt, just recognize where it ends. Because it does end, and it doesn’t end well. And there are so many more problems that come with being arrested and sent to prison. My family also has to live with the shame I caused them. My mother was so proud of me and once I got caught that crushed her and she has to live with all the shame because of what I did. My older son also went through a hard time because he has the same name and that hurt him since people knew the Dowd name was dirty. I am doing my best now to be a dad because before I was not.
Erika: What led you to stray?
I think in the academy what I didn’t see was the face of corruption, which is just like your own face itself. So they showed us a couple of films, internal affairs came in and spoke to us and then they walked out with the instructors saying, "Whatever IA said does not apply in the streets. Whatever goes down, you make sure you cover your ass. Always have an answer."
So we want to stop that from happening. Every human makes decisions… So what I know is you have to feel comfortable making the right decision. You have to feel comfortable. The environment has to say, “Hey that was a good arrest” instead of saying, “What are you doing making a drug arrest?” I remember making an arrest and saying, “Now what do I do?” The perp is more important than you. It’s a struggle, it’s a wrestling match for me because anything I say it’s going to be looked at minimizing, trying to make an excuse for my behavior and there’s no excuse for my behavior and that’s very important that it’s recognized. I did what I did. I made every choice on my own. I was never forced to do anything wrong.
Danny: During those years did you ever contemplate suicide?
I always had hope. I always hung on to the hope and I had family support. To be honest, I never actually thought of ending my life because I always looked at things as another opportunity. Hope! There was always hope for me. Somehow maybe it was in my nature. I always had hope. Like when I got arrested, I hoped that I wasn’t going to jail. When I was in prison, the last day in prison, the day before, I was looking for my early release, and that was all based on my hope.
Danny: There’s officers today who are contemplating suicide, what do you tell them?
DON’T! Call somebody, go get help. You don’t need to do it. There’s a life outside the police department and the public shame that you may endure now may turn around to be in your benefit one day. It makes you stronger. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger, so don’t kill yourself. That same guy who’s talking about killing himself today, he’s going through some shit, but in the end, he’s going to be a human being with value. Yes, you’re saving his life, it happened to a friend of mine. Don’t let the cop kill himself or someone else for that matter. Don’t let him drive off drunk hoping to crash because he doesn’t have the nerve to kill himself. How many cops you know try to kill themselves and miss? I’ve seen them. I’ve been in rehab with them.
Danny: Speak directly to the officers reading this. What’s the main takeaway from this interview?
Cops should know when they take this job to be a police officer there’s dignity and honor that comes with it. I was too immature to recognize my purpose was to serve the public and not myself. Being a cop is more than a salary; it’s a career that you will never know the value of being a cop until you are no longer one. You go from having a million brother and sister officers to zero.
Erika: For those people who say you’re using this as a stepping stone for publicity to promote a book or a movie, what would you say to them?
That’s not why I’m here at all. I’m here to give a lesson to police officers and departments that can use some raw real-life example of what happens to a police officer who’s young and altruistic and then he gets jaded and turns against his own department.
Danny: What does the future hold for you? What are your plans?
I want to keep speaking with young officers and recruits to share my experiences with them. I give them a perspective that only someone like myself can give. I just want to give back. I want a shot at redemption. Hopefully one day I will be able to walk up to a police officer without having to feel that shame.
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