NYPD Blue Face Brothel Bust

Police officers assigned to the Midtown South Precinct patrol some of the busiest and flashiest areas of Manhattan's Times Square, the theater district, and Madison Square Garden.

But for at least 15 years, several officers allegedly slipped away from the hustle and bustle and into an apartment near Times Square where they could sleep on the job or have sex with prostitutes. WCBS-TV News2 Reporter John Slattery has the details.

John Slattery Has The Report

In return, the officers reportedly allowed a brothel to operate a few blocks from the busy 'Crossroads of the World' that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has made a showpiece of his crusade against vice.

New York Police Commissioner
Howard Safir
Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir grimly announced Friday that 19 police officers, one sergeant, one lieutenant, and the precinct's top two commanders have been disciplined in the case.

The timing of the scandal is particularly inopportune for Giuliani, who has portrayed New York as the comeback city, a perfect place for fellow Republicans' national convention in the year 2000.

New York City Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani
The mayor, a former prosecutor who has presided over a sharp drop in crime, found himself facing questions on how on-duty sexual romps by his officers had gone unnoticed for so long.

"We caught it," he said. "This administration did a better job than was done in the last 10 to 15 years of finding out about this."

When did the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau and the Manhattan District Attorney's office begin investigating the 400 officers assigned to the precinct? More than a year ago, after tips from prostitutes.

Times Square, once known around the world as the address for big-city sleaze and decay, has become a symbol of New York's push for urban renewal. There are fewer pornography shops and more chic mega-stores. Companies like Walt Disney have helped transform the XXX-rated blocks into a G-rated family entertainment center.

But, apparently, even as the New Times Square was being constructed, the remains of the old lingered. On Friday, the mayor dismissed the scheme's proximity to Times Square as unimportant.

"It wouldn' have made much difference where it was in the city," Giuliani said. "It is the dishonoring of the badge that is the most outrageous part of it."

Only the 19 officers are under suspicion of having sex with prostitutes, Safir added. No charges have been filed, though 18 officers and a sergeant have been placed on modified duty, without their guns and badges.

Safir said he believed the number of officers who had sex with prostitutes over the years was confined to a "small, stable group" on the day shift, but he would not say how many. Officials said the alleged sex scheme stopped about a year ago.

A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a two-bedroom apartment just blocks from Times Square appears to be owned by a brothel the precinct cops patronized, and was used exclusively by the officers.

"Individual officers from time to time would stop off at this particular place, some just to coop, some to partake in sexual activities," Safir said. "Cooping" is a police term for hiding out while on duty.

Midtown South officers also went to a massage parlor that moved around the precinct, the Times reported. Investigators told the newspaper they have a surveillance video tape from the parlor that shows officers entering the business and demanding sex.

A new commander for the precinct was announced Friday.

The previous commander, its executive officer and a lieutenant have been transferred. Safir said he has no information the three knew about the sex scheme, but he transferred them for failing to supervise the rank and file.

By Donna De La Cruz