Commissioner to Decide Discipline for Officers Involved in Suspicious Drug Bust

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The Roundhouse. Photo: Kristi Petrillo/The Declaration

By Dustin Slaughter, Jack Grauer, and Austin Nolen

Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross will decide whether to accept the findings and discipline recommended by a police disciplinary board, following a secret hearing held last Thursday involving two officers.

Defendant officers Angel Ortiz and Diertra Cuffie allegedly falsified police paperwork, including an affidavit of probable cause to obtain a search warrant, and committed perjury during a highly suspicious 2011 drug case.

Ex-Philadelphia police officer Andre Boyer, who was Ortiz’s partner at the time of the heroin bust, filed the complaint against Ortiz and Cuffie in 2015.

Ortiz has been on desk duty since 2015. Cuffie has been a police officer since 1989 and currently works in the narcotics field unit.

Boyer was fired in 2013 after the same disciplinary board found him guilty of “intention to deceive, abuse of authority, failing to follow departmental procedures for handling evidence and conduct unbecoming an officer,” according to Philadelphia magazine. The story also noted that Boyer had been the subject of 21 public complaints. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Boyer originally filed the complaint against Ortiz and Cuffie in 2015, but police did not allow him to attend Thursday’s hearing or testify as a witness.

Department spokesman Lt. John Stanford could not explain why the department barred him from testifying.

Stanford said last week’s hearing began as an internal matter and that Boyer’s 2015 complaint was folded in after the department’s investigation of the two officers was underway.

A series of City Paper investigations by Daniel Denvir and Jerry Iannelli last year detailed the sketchy heroin bust in 2011 involving Ortiz and Cuffie. The District Attorney’s office later withdrew the charges against defendant James Singleton and has not pressed charges against the officers.

Boyer alleges that the DA’s office routinely allows police misconduct cases to run out the statute of limitations. He also likened the case of Thursday’s defendants to that of former veteran narcotics officer Christopher Hulmes.

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Former police officer Andre Boyer. Photo: Laura Evangelisto/The Declaration

Hulmes this year struck a deal with the DA after facing prosecution for perjury, a felony offense. That deal notwithstanding, Hulmes could get a job with another police department.

Hulmes’ arrest last year could result in hundreds of tossed drug cases.

“If it goes public, and it should,” Boyer said of last week’s proceeding, “the whole narcotics department [would] be torn apart.”

Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter passed a 2011 executive order that enabled the public to attend all disciplinary hearings held by the Police Board of Inquiry that result from complaints filed against police by the public.

Commissioner Ross, through a department representative, barred The Declaration from Thursday’s hearing. According to Stanford, this was because the hearing was considered the result of an internal investigation, even though Boyer’s civilian complaint was part of the case.

Police Advisory Commission head Kelvyn Anderson attended the hearing but declined to discuss it.

“We believe that public attendance at Police Board of Inquiry hearings related to Citizens Complaints is a critical component to the visibility of the results of the police department’s disciplinary system,” Anderson wrote in an emailed statement. “We’d like to talk with the department about publishing a list of cases scheduled to be heard, for example.”

The Declaration could not independently confirm the outcome of Thursday’s hearing because Boyer has not yet received a letter stating Commissioner Ross’ final decision. Per police protocol, the commissioner ultimately decides whether to accept PBI’s findings.

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