A D.C. police officer secretly recorded conversations with a drug dealer in which the dealer said he had been tipped off by members of the 4th District vice squad about police plans for the Operation Caribbean Cruise drug raid in February 1986, according to sources.
The tapes were played for D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., Deputy Chief James P. Shugart, then commander of the 4th Police District, and other police officials during a meeting in Turner's office last year, the sources said.
At the end of the meeting, the sources said, Turner told the group that an investigation of the leaks to the drug dealers should be handled by the 4th District, not the department's Internal Affairs Division, which had closed an earlier investigation of Caribbean Cruise without pinpointing leaks.
According to the sources, Turner gave Shugart and the 4th District 30 days in which to conduct an investigation of the leaks alleged in the tapes. At the end of that time, the sources said, the investigation was to be handed over to Internal Affairs. There is conflicting information about whether that step was taken.
The fact that a tape was played for Turner and other police officials seems to buttress the claims of some that the department had specific information about leaks con- cerning Caribbean Cruise that were not adequately investigated.
Police spokesman Capt. William White III said that Turner would not comment on the tapes or any other aspect of the continuing federal probe.
The FBI is investigating the leaks about Operation Caribbean Cruise, along with other allegations that members of the 4th District vice squad had skimmed drugs and money during and after drug raids.
The 4th District vice squad developed the majority of information that led to Operation Caribbean Cruise, which targeted Jamaican drug dealers operating in upper Northeast Washington. The Feb. 22, 1986, raid, involving more than 500 police officers, was designed to net huge caches of illegal drugs and weapons and hundreds of arrests but yielded only 27 arrests, $20,000 in drugs and 13 weapons.
The officer doing the secret taping apparently was attempting to find out why the raid had failed, sources said.
Sources said that on the recording, the drug dealer claimed he had been tipped off by Officer Shelton D. Roberts.
Roberts, whose police powers have been suspended, and another officer are the subjects of the FBI skimming investigation. Sources said the FBI probe was begun after D.C. police officers went to the U.S. attorney with allegations of skimming.
Almost immediately after the Caribbean Cruise sweep, D.C. police officials said they believed that information about the raid had been leaked to the suspects in advance.
Two months after the operation, Mayor Marion Barry said an internal police investigation had pinpointed the source of leaks but that he and Turner had decided not to make the findings public so as not to jeopardize future operations.
Internal Affairs conducted an extensive investigation of Caribbean Cruise, and Shugart received an official reprimand from Turner for mismanagement of the investigation upon which the operation was based. Turner later said the internal probe was closed without identifying the source of any leaks but was reopened last year after the department developed new information about the alleged leaks.
Sources said 4th District officials, including Shugart, who is now retired and who could not be reached for comment, may not have reported to Turner about the second investigation or forwarded their findings to Internal Affairs at its completion, as they were ordered to do.
Other sources maintain that Internal Affairs was informed of the investigation.
The Washington Post reported Aug. 27 that the FBI, without informing Turner or the department's Internal Affairs Division, had launched an investigation into allegations that some D.C. police narcotics officers were keeping drugs and money they had seized during drug raids. The FBI, armed with a grand jury subpoena, searched the 4th District vice squad office Sept. 9 and seized a van-load of evidence, including notebooks, warrants, affidavits and other documents.
The next day, the FBI returned to the 4th District headquarters, 6001 Georgia Ave. NW, and "cleaned out" an office where records about Operation Caribbean Cruise were being stored, sources said.
Sources have said that the FBI investigation began after a small group of D.C. police officers went to the U.S. attorney's office with allegations that some officers were skimming drugs and money but that the department had refused to investigate the allegations.
As many as 10 D.C. police officers have been interviewed by the FBI in recent months in connection with the probe, sources said. The FBI persuaded some of the officers to talk by saying that if they failed to volunteer information, they might be summoned before a grand jury, the sources said.
U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova announced last week that 300 to 400 pending drug cases that were investigated by the 4th District vice squad will be dropped because of the allegations. The Post reported Saturday that one of the primary reasons for dropping the cases, according to sources, are allegations that some members of the squad routinely lied under oath to judges to obtain search warrants.
The entire 16-member vice squad has been detailed elsewhere in the department pending completion of the investigation, according to sources.
A federal grand jury began hearing testimony on the police corruption probe Friday, and sources said that indictments could come within several weeks.