Former NYPD Sgt. Mullins Is Prime Example Of The Corrupt Leadership In American Policing

Former NYPD Sgt. Ed Mullins

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Former NYPD Sgt. Ed Mullins is an example of the typical type of police “leaders” that must be removed from police departments to change the corrupt criminal culture inside American policing.

Not long after he took over the police union he would lead for nearly two decades, Sgt. Ed Mullins sued the New York Police Department in a case that would eventually earn his members $20 million in back pay and damages from the city.

The lawsuit showed gumption, and the judgment, issued in 2012, endeared Mullins to the thousands of NYPD sergeants he represented. But the money wasn’t the half of it. A ruling against the city, handed down partway through the case and hardly noticed at the time by anyone but the lawyers, may have turned out to be far more valuable to Mullins and his union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association.

In a written decision, the federal judge overseeing the case told the city to back off Mullins’ union, barring the Police Department from investigating claims of SBA members lying under oath that had arisen in the course of the litigation.

It was a message heard loud and clear, and one that would echo through City Hall and One Police Plaza for years to come.

As the lawsuit wound its way through the courts, city officials would learn of other allegations involving the SBA, some of them specifically related to Mullins. But oversight agencies begged off or, in the case of the city’s chief financial officer, did not act when claims of fraud came to light, according to a ProPublica review of city records and interviews with several people who worked in city government or law enforcement at the time.

In the years that followed, Mullins strengthened his grip on the 13,000-member SBA, repeatedly winning reelection with little opposition. And as a reckoning over race and the criminal justice system took hold over the last few years, Mullins used his perch atop the union to fashion himself as a pro-police provocateur.

As activists and local lawmakers pushed for police reform, he took to Twitter, Fox News and podcasts to spread increasingly inflammatory commentary that went largely unaddressed by NYPD leaders.

The union that he led, which receives tens of millions of taxpayer dollars a year for its members’ health and welfare funds, carried on with a similar lack of scrutiny.

Until a couple of months ago.

On Oct. 5, federal agents executing search warrants raided Mullins’ home on Long Island and the SBA’s headquarters in Manhattan. The Daily News and the New York Post, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, reported that federal investigators are examining whether Mullins misused union accounts.

Mullins resigned as union president that evening and hasn’t commented publicly since the raids. A call to his cell phone went straight to voicemail, and the mailbox was full. In a note to members, the union’s executive board wrote that Mullins “is apparently the target of the federal investigation” and that it had “no reason to believe that any other member of the SBA is involved or targeted in this matter.”

Mullins’ lawyer, Marc Mukasey, didn’t respond when asked if Mullins has been told he is a target of the federal inquiry. Federal prosecutors can deem someone a “target” when investigators have collected “substantial evidence” that links the person “to the commission of a crime,” according to the Department of Justice manual.

No charges against Mullins have been announced by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is leading the investigation and which, along with the FBI, declined to comment for this article.

But to critics of the police unions, the incendiary, unchecked rhetoric from Mullins and the scant oversight of the SBA’s finances underscore the influence the unions have amassed and the power they have to obstruct reform.

“It’s a problem in the police world, not unsimilar to the civilian review board, where there’s just nobody who wants the ire of the police union because they’re so bananas half the time with their public relations stuff,” said Bruce McIver, who served as the chief labor negotiator to Mayor Ed Koch from 1979 to 1983 and spent decades in city and state government.

While the federal inquiry moves forward largely behind closed doors, the NYPD has over the last several months gone public with action against Mullins over his crude rhetoric and combative tactics.

Early this year, Mullins was brought up on departmental charges for tweets he sent in 2020. Two tweets used crass and vulgar language to target city officials who had been critical of the police. Another disclosed the arrest record of the mayor’s daughter, who was detained during racial justice protests that followed George Floyd’s 2020 murder. Mullins sued to stop the disciplinary proceeding, arguing his statements as a union president were protected by the First Amendment, but a federal judge denied his request.

In late October, Mullins appeared before a departmental tribunal to face charges of abuse of authority and making disrespectful remarks. On Nov. 5, the police commissioner docked Mullins 70 vacation days for his online behavior. Mullins, 59, retired from the Police Department that day, after 39 years with the department.

The internal discipline was a far cry from being fired, as some critics had urged, and the punishment won’t affect his ability to collect a pension on the $133,195 salary he earned in 2020 as an NYPD sergeant.

But if the NYPD let Mullins leave the department largely unscathed, the stakes are decidedly higher with the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office.

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