Union Grievance Blamed for Bad Buffalo Cop

A union grievance helped a Buffalo police officer back into the world of drugs and dirty money. In 1993, the FBI warned Buffalo’s police commissioner he had a crooked cop on his narcotics squad. The FBI said Darnyl Parker, a decorated detective who lectured schoolchildren about the evils of drugs, was secretly passing confidential police information to drug dealers. The FBI said it also believed Parker was stealing cash from drug dealers and providing dope to his twin brother.

Richard Donovan, Buffalo’s police commissioner at the time, immediately removed Parker from a federal drug task force and transferred him out of the narcotics squad. But the police union, claiming Donovan had no right to discipline Parker without formally charging him, demanded he be given his job back.   The Police Benevolent Association won. An arbitrator ordered Parker returned to narcotics investigations. He also made the city pay Parker $18,438 in overtime that he potentially would have earned on the narcotics squad.

Now Parker is in trouble again — this time, much more serious. He has been criminally charged with doing what the FBI claimed he was doing seven years ago. His arrest Mar. 2 in a public corruption probe had Buffalo decisionmaker questioning the powers of the PBA.

Parker is charged with taking bribes from a drug dealer, passing on information about coming police raids, investing in dope deals and stealing seized drugs. This time, the FBI said, the drugs went not to his brother but to Parker’s 21-year-old son, William, to set him up in the drug business. He was charged as well. Parker is also accused of leading a rogue band of three other Buffalo narcotics detectives who stole more than $36,000 in marked bills from an FBI agent posing as a Jamaican drug dealer.

Further, Parker and fellow detectives John Ferby, Robert E. Hill and David Rodriguez also are accused of staging a phony drug raid. They were caught on videotape looking for cash and narcotics in a drug house set up by the FBI with hidden cameras and sound equipment.

Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina said Parker’s grievance exposed a weakness in the department’s ability to put officers where they’re best suited. “If they’re not fit for the job,” Diina said, “we don’t have the ability to move them out. In this case, this individual was able to use our flawed system and be put back in a position where federal authorities felt he was unfit.”

Diina agreed with crime experts who feel narcotics detectives should be rotated out of the unit at least every three years. And department brass, he said, should choose the best officers for the job. Instead, detectives with the most seniority often choose narcotics, where the department’s best overtime is found. Officials said the four detectives arrested in the Parker case all made in the range of $70,000 a year with overtime and court pay. And there is no provision, short of formally charging a detective with misconduct or a crime, for removing a detective from the unit.

Lt. Robert Meegan, PBA president, defend PBA’s actions Parker case.  “As far as the union, I hold us completely blameless,” Meegan said. “We did what we are supposed to do, and what we have to do.” [Buff. News 3/12/00]