Joe Sánchez during his time with the NYPD
January 16, 1947 |
Santurce, Puerto Rico
|Relatives||Lorraine Cassandra Pfaus (wife)|
|Years of service||1973–85|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1965-1967|
|Unit||1st Air Cavalry Division (Mobile)|
|Awards||Army Commendation Medal Purple Heart|
Joe Sánchez (born Jose Manuel Sánchez Picon[note 1] on January 16, 1947), is a former New York City police officer and author who published books about corruption within the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
Upon exposing the illegal acts committed by some high-ranking NYPD officers, Sánchez was arrested on the basis of false allegations which were highly publicized by the news media, then subsequently refuted. When his initial conviction for assault was overturned, his case exposed the existence of a code of silence among police officers known as the "Blue Wall of Silence.
Sánchez is a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, and one of five siblings born to Jose Sánchez and Clotilde Picon. In the early 1950s his parents moved to New York City in search of a better life, and settled in Manhattan. When his parents divorced, his mother remarried and moved the family to the South Bronx. There Sánchez received his primary and secondary education. Upon graduation from Theodore Roosevelt High School, he joined the United States Armed Forces.
Sánchez attempted to enlist, but for reasons unknown to him he was not accepted by any of the four military branches at the induction center at Whitehall Street. He then signed up for the selective service and in 1965, he was drafted into the United States Army at the age of 18. On January 16, 1967, on his twentieth birthday, he found himself with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the 1st Air Cavalry Division (Mobile) (after being transferred from A Company, 5/7) deployed near the village of Phan Thiet, in South Vietnam. On that day, his unit was engaged in a firefight with the Viet Cong. Sánchez and three of his comrades were seriously wounded by the shrapnel of an enemy grenade during that firefight. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and Purple Heart Medals.
After recovering from his wounds, Sánchez was discharged from the Army and he returned to New York City. There he met a young girl by the name of Lorraine Cassandra Pfaus, whom he married. He worked in various jobs, among them as a taxi and ambulance driver for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. On various occasions, Sánchez applied to become a police officer with the New York City Police Department, but was not accepted. He then took the entrance examination for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department and was accepted.
Sánchez served with the Port Authority from January 1971 to October 1973, during which time he discovered that his application for the NYPD had once again been rejected because of a technicality. He opted to take his case in front of the NYPD police review board and was finally accepted as a police candidate.
New York City Police Department
Sánchez graduated from the New York Police Academy after six months of training and was assigned to the 90th Precinct in Brooklyn. The 90th Precinct is located in northern Brooklyn in the Williamsburg section.
During his years as a police officer, Sánchez learned that there were good police officers as well as corrupt ones. He also noticed that illegal acts committed by some of his fellow officers were often ignored and seldom reported by others, including some of his superiors who believed in a code of silence known amongst them as the "Blue Code of Silence" and the "Blue Wall of Silence." According to this code, reporting another officer's misconduct or crimes is regarded as a betrayal.
"Arrest machine" nickname
Sánchez served in various precincts before being transferred to the 30th Precinct, a primarily residential area in Harlem with a commercial strip on Broadway. The neighborhoods in the precinct are Hamilton Heights, Sugar Hill, and West Harlem, all of which, during Sánchez's tenure, had a lot of drug use, gang activity, and turf wars.
According to the New York Daily News, Sánchez was highly dedicated to his police work at the 30th Precinct. One story has it that Sánchez once walked into a shop on 158th Street and Broadway to get some coffee. A local gentleman took one look at Sánchez, put his hands on the counter, and yelled, "Okay, Sánchez, you got me. Don't shoot!" It turned out that the man was wanted for robbery and had a gun. Sánchez was considered "an arrest machine" in northern Manhattan.
Blue Code of Silence
Sánchez accidentally discovered that one of his lieutenants was receiving payments and sexual favors in exchange for protection. After issuing a routine traffic summons to the brother of a powerful businessman, Sánchez was invited to the businessman's office and asked if he would be interested in providing protection for his drivers, "the same as your lieutenant and captain are doing." The businessman then offered him money. When Sánchez reported this situation to the NYPD Internal Affairs Division (IAD), they "wired" him with a recording device, with the supposed intent of gathering proof of his accusations against the lieutenant and the captain.
Unknown to Sánchez, the people who wired him were friends of his lieutenant as well. Sánchez returned to the businessman and gathered enough information to implicate this lieutenant and captain on corruption charges. However, upon learning of the situation, the lieutenant and the captain transferred Sánchez to another Court Division in the Bronx, and the IAD investigation was quietly shelved.
In 1982, Sánchez participated in a drug bust (seizure of illegal drugs by the police) with his partner, Herman Velez. A year later, in October, Sánchez was framed by some members of the police force with respect to the drug bust, and was indicted by a Special and Extraordinary Grand Jury in Manhattan for one count of Burglary in the First Degree; one count of Grand Larceny in the first Degree; one count of Grand Larceny in the second Degree; five counts of Grand larceny in the Third Degree; and one count of assault in the Third Degree. The witnesses against him were drug dealers he and his partner arrested in 1982, and who were promised to have their indictments dropped if they agreed to testify against Sánchez. After a lengthy trial, Sánchez was exonerated of every single charge, and he applied for reinstatement to his position. In 1988, after an administrative "snafu" (foul-up) his reinstatement appeal was sent to two different New York State Supreme Court justices. One ruled that he be rehired, and the other upheld his dismissal.
The case went before the Appellate Court of New York where the decision was not in Sánchez's favor. The reason was that at that time, only NYPD Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward had the statutory authority to reinstate a police officer who had been exonerated after being fired. This statute has since been rescinded, and the NYPD police commissioner no longer has sole discretion to make such a decision, without a departmental hearing. This was the hearing that was denied to Sánchez, for fear that it would open "a can of worms" into how Sanchez was falsely accused by members of the department and the special state prosecutor. However, back in 1988, NYPD Commissioner Ward did have the authority - and Sánchez was not reinstated.
Corrections officer and retirement
Sánchez worked for Holmes Security as a night supervisor for three years, then worked as a mailman in Haverstraw, New York. In 1989, he joined the New York State Department of Corrections, who welcomed him on the job.
As a corrections officer, Sánchez came into contact with many of the inmates he had arrested as a police officer in Washington Heights. He first worked at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in the village of Ossining, within the town of Ossining, New York. There, he was assaulted, and one inmate tried to set him up on false allegations that Sánchez had mistreated him. The Department of Corrections knew what was going on and supported him. Sánchez then purchased a house in Catskill and transferred to Coxsackie State Prison. While at Coxsackie State Prison, he was involved in many dangerous situations involving fights between inmates. Once, he was nearly killed when he came to the aid of an inmate who was being stabbed by another, but other officers only came when the brawl was almost over. Sánchez considered retirement shortly afterward.
Sánchez retired and moved with his family to Florida. He continues to be active in various police-related organizations. He stated, "What I tell young cops I come in contact with...they have one of the greatest jobs in the world, and to stay honest, for once you lose a job for being dishonest, it will stay with you until you die."
|Video interviews by Suzannah B. Troy about Joe Sanchez. Parts 1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6,7, and 8.|
|Sanchez discusses his NYPD Evaluation|
In 2008, the New York Daily News wrote that his tenure at the NYPD was marked by getting double-crossed by the Internal Affairs Division, which wired him up to catch a crooked lieutenant and captain; his arrest on the allegations of a drug dealer; and a conviction for assault that was overturned; and an unsuccessful bid for reinstatement. The process of Sánchez's reinstatement review was so tainted that, in 1988, an "administrative error" sent his reinstatement appeal to 2 different Supreme Court justices at the same time, of which one ruled that he be rehired and the other upheld his dismissal. Sánchez documented these events in his autobiographyTrue Blue.
In 2013, activist and citizen journalist Suzannah B. Troy interviewed AnnaBell Washburn, who was one of 12 jurors during Sánchez's trial in 1985. According to the interview Washburn tried to help Sánchez by writing letters to the then Special State Prosecutor Charles Hynes (who went on to serve as the Brooklyn District Attorney for 24 years), Judge Dennis Edwards, who presided over Sanchez' trial, and NYPD Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward, who refused to reinstate Sanchez, even after he was exonerated. The reason given for the refusal was that Sanchez was a whistleblower who broke the Police Code of Silence when he reported his lieutenant and captain for corruption.
The injustice that Sanchez went through was the subject of a Baltimore Post Examiner article titled "Super Cop: Badge 3712, NYPD Officer Joe Sanchez’ tragic days" published on April 27, 2016. The article was written by Doug Poppa, a United States Army Military Police Veteran and former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator.
Sánchez wrote an autobiography which detailed his experiences in the NYPD, which was noted for its fierce honesty and detail. According to the New York Daily News, Sánchez "has put it all down in an autobiography called True Blue, that is as rough around the edges as the kid who grew up in the South Bronx in the 1950s and made it to the NYPD after a tour in Vietnam and brief stint as a Port Authority cop."
Together with Mo Dhania, Sánchez is the author of the following books:
- Latin Blues, A Tale of Police Omerta From the NYPD; Publisher: The Old Kings Road Press (2006), ISBN 1-60179-000-7
- True Blue: A Tale of the Enemy Within; Publisher: Old King Road Press, ISBN 978-1-60179-012-5 [note 2]
- Red Herring: Police Corruption in Washington Heights; Publisher: Old King Road Press, ISBN 978-1-60179-066-8
- Yellow Streak, when one honest police officer denounces corruption... and no one has the courage to back him up; Publisher: Old King Road Press, ISBN 978-1601790774
Among Sánchez's military decorations and awards are the following:
- Army Commendation Medal
- Purple Heart
- Army Good Conduct Medal
- National Defense Service Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Sanchez, Joe; Dhania, Mo (2007). True Blue: A Tale of the Enemy Within. Athletic Guide Publishing. ISBN 9781601790125. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Marzulli, John (16 July 2008). "Fired NYPD cop writes gritty book to set record straight". New York Daily News. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- "Police Officer Books - Joe Sanchez". Police Writers. Raymond E. Foster. 2006. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- "Precincts-90th Precinct". NYPD. NYC.gov. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Westmarland, Louise (June 2005). "Police Ethics and Integrity: Breaking the Blue Code of Silence". Policing and Society. 15 (2): 145–165. doi:10.1080/10439460500071721. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- 30th Precinct
- "Facility Listing". Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. State of New York. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- on YouTube
- Super Cop: Badge 3712, NYPD Officer Joe Sanchez’ tragic days
- MWSA 2011 Books Award Winners
- Sánchez, Joe (24 July 2013). "Ser un buen policía en Nueva York". El Diario (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 March 2016.