Two D.C. police officers who were alleged to have tipped off drug dealers to the 1986 Operation Caribbean Cruise drug raid were identified by a dealer who selected their pictures from a "photo spread" of officers, sources said.
The dealer previously had named one of the officers in a secretly recorded conversation with a D.C. police officer who was trying to discover why Operation Caribbean Cruise had failed, the sources said.
According to the tape, which was played recently for a reporter from The Washington Post, the dealer identified one of the officers as "Roberts . . . . He told me that they were coming in the morning and that if I got anything to clean it out."
Sound on the tape was not always clear and the conversation at times was garbled.
Sources said the officer who recorded the Oct. 4 conversation met with the dealer about two weeks later and showed him a group of pictures of D.C. police officers. According to sources and a second tape surreptitiously made during the subsequent meeting, the dealer reviewed the photographs, selected a picture of Officer Shelton D. Roberts and said that Roberts was the police officer who supplied the tip-off about the raids.
Sources said that the dealer selected the picture of a second police officer and said that that officer also was involved in the incident. Roberts and the second officer were both assigned to the 4th Police District until this week when Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. ordered that members of the 4th District vice unit be detailed to other posts. Efforts to reach Roberts were unsuccessful.
In addition to the conversations with the drug dealer, another conversation with a second informant also was taped, and that informant identified a third D.C. police officer, also assigned to the 4th District, as one who allegedly supplied information about the Feb. 22, 1986, Caribbean Cruise raid.
Operation Caribbean Cruise was a massive drug sweep in which more than 500 police officers simultaneously executed search warrants at 68 homes, expecting to make hundreds of arrests and seize huge caches of automatic weapons and illegal drugs.
Almost immediately after the raid, which yielded only 27 arrests, 13 weapons and $27,000 in illegal drugs, police said they believed information about the operation had been given to suspects in advance.
The FBI is investigating the alleged leaks along with other allegations that some members of the 4th District vice squad kept drugs and money seized during raids, according to sources. The U.S. attorney's office has said it will drop 300 to 400 pending drug cases that were investigated by the squad because of the skimming allegations and additional allegations that 4th District vice officers frequently lied under oath to judges to obtain search warrants.
The federal probe was begun after a small group of officers went to the U.S. attorney's office and complained that the D.C. police department was not investigating the allegations, according to sources.
The FBI has interviewed as many as 10 officers in recent months about the allegations, and a grand jury began hearing testimony in the probe last week.
Police spokesman Capt. William White III said yesterday Turner would not comment on the continuing federal probe. Police officials have refused to comment on the investigation since Aug. 28, the day after The Post reported that the FBI, without informing Turner or the department's Internal Affairs Division, was investigating the skimming allegations.
Tapes containing information about alleged police leaks about Caribbean Cruise were played for Turner; former Deputy Chief James P. Shugart, who commanded the 4th District at the time of the operation; Lt. Robert H. Drescher, also assigned to the 4th District, and possibly others during a meeting last year in Turner's office, Shugart confirmed in a news conference Tuesday.
It was unclear which of the tapes that contain information about the leaks was played.
Shugart said that Turner gave the 4th District 30 days in which to investigate the allegations, after which the investigation was to be turned over to the Internal Affairs Division, which previously had investigated Caribbean Cruise leaks without success.
At the end of the 30 days, Shugart said, Turner permitted a short extension, but the officer who had made the tapes and who was assigned to the investigation, Curtis H. Arnold, a 17-year veteran of the force, was unable to substantiate the charges.
There is sharp disagreement about happened next.
According to Shugart, Arnold was ordered by Drescher at the end of his investigation to turn all of his information over to internal affairs. "I was there when the lieutenant reminded him to turn it over," Shugart said yesterday.
According to three sources, however, Arnold claims that he was ordered to drop the investigation and destroy the tapes.
Drescher and Arnold refused to comment yesterday.
The conflicting accounts indicate a significant dispute over whether the police department was willing to pursue information about Caribbean Cruise leaks if that information might eventually implicate fellow officers.
Ranking police officials have said that the neither the tapes, nor the information contained in them, was given to internal affairs until Monday -- the day their existence was reported by The Post -- when Drescher went to the internal affairs offices and handed over his copies of the tapes.
Whether or not Arnold was ordered to turn the investigation over to internal affairs, it is apparent that ranking officials, including Turner and Shugart, did not follow up to see if the officer had done so.
Shugart said yesterday, "If it wasn't followed up, it should have been followed up by the officials who gave the order," whom he identified as Drescher.
According to the tapes and sources familiar with them, a Jamaican drug dealer claimed that he was stopped by two D.C. police officers while riding an elevator in D.C. Superior Court. He was told that Caribbean Cruise, which targeted an alleged Jamaican drug ring in Northeast Washington, was going to be staged the next day, and the dealer relayed this to other Jamaican friends of his, according to the tapes.
A second informant claimed that a third officer told him about the raid two weeks in advance, according to a tape and sources.
After hearing the tapes last year and reviewing the information Arnold had assembled during his investigation, Shugart said he concluded that the allegations were "unsubstantiated" and, in some instances, based on hearsay. Arnold "was given ample time to confirm or have the allegations denied," Shugart said. "At the end of that time he was at a dead end . . . . You have to have something, called facts, which is classified as evidence."Staff writer Michael York contributed to this report.