The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Gangster Cop

The Fix Q&A with Michael Dowd, the kingpin of a gang of cops who extorted drug dealers, and now the subject of a brilliant documentary.

bad-copsMichael Dowd’s story is being compared toGoodfellas but, unlike wiseguy Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), Dowd was a New York City police officer who described himself as a “gangster and a cop.” In his fifties now, Dowd says he’s “for the most part” sober since 1992 — the year he was arrested for racketeering and cocaine trafficking. At the time, he was employed by East New York, Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct.

The Seven Five documentary opened in theaters this weekend and tells the whole sordid mess. It’s not your typical doc though. This is a crazy rush of adrenaline told by a charismatic criminal who seems to get as much of a kick out of himself as Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill. Another similarity to a Scorsese movie is the wild abandon used with the F-word.

This is better than any police procedural. Sony already bought the rights to the story and has begun making a feature film with big Hollywood names including screenwriter Scott Frank (Get ShortyOut of SightMinority Report), director Yann Demange (71) and producer John Lesher (Birdman). Oh, and there’s a book in the works, too. Dowd could not hide his excitement when he said he hopes the book will answer any questions that might arise.

During the late ’80s through the early ’90s, Brooklyn had the highest murder rates in America. Crack cocaine was everywhere and Michael Dowd was a cop so crooked that he, along with his uniform-wearing law-breaking cohorts, inspired Mayor David Dinkins to create the Mollen Commission, a task force assigned with investigating police brutality, criminality and abuse of power.

In the film, Walter Yurkin, another shady cop from the “Seven Five” said, “It was the deadliest precinct in the country. It would scare Clint Eastwood and I’d break your neck if your neck needed breaking.”

In 1982, Dowd was a 20-year old, shiny-new clean cop. A decade later, he was the dirtiest thug in the New York police department. Dowd was the kingpin of a gang of crooked cops extorting money from Dominican drug lords and robbing drug dealers at gunpoint.

Like so many drug addicts, his grandiosity did him in. In American Gangster Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) brought about his own downfall by strutting around in a lavish fur coat. Dowd’s version of that was when he began forgetting to pick up his $615 per week NYPD paycheck while riding to work in his brand new red Corvette. He even arranged limo pickups from work to Atlantic City to launder his ill-gotten green.

The Fix interviewed Dowd last week in New York, just before the release of the film.

In American Gangster, Russell Crowe played Richie Roberts, the one cop with ethics. And in Serpico, one cop stood up to the whole corrupt police department. Did you think those cops with ethics were saps? Or did you just see them as rats?

Look, most cops want to be good cops, including myself. It depends on the environment they’re in and where the gray line is. I didn’t want to be a gangster but once you cross the line it’s very difficult to get back. It was hard to sleep with myself then, knowing night-after-night what I was doing. Read more “the fix”…


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