Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love

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Today’s nonfiction post is Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love by Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker. It is 233 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. It is told from the first person account of Wendy Ruderman with Laker’s thought and actions thrown in. The cover is a long view of Philadelphia at sunset. There is strong language, rape, and lots of violence in this book; 18 and up because of the content. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- Although Busted reads like a thriller, the breath taking story it tells- of two journalists’ quest to unmask corrupt police officers and a warped justice system, the reported of which culminated in a Pulitzer Prize- is absolutely true. One afternoon in late 2008, a man walks into the offices of the local tabloid the Philadelphia Daily News and asks to speak with reporter Wendy Ruderman. An imminent casualty of the foundering print industry, the paper is on the brink of bankruptcy, and its anxious staff members are plagued with dwindling resources. But what Benny Martinez tells Wendy and her colleague Barbara Laker is too shocking to ignore; his career as a confidential informant for a member of the Philadelphia Police Department’s narcotics squad has drawn him into a horrifying web of corruption, and now he is afraid for his life.
The decision they make that day to believe Benny’s saga will lead to two journalists to uncover a truth darker than they could have imagined. Busted is Ruderman and Laker’s riveting account of their explosive investigation into the acts committed by rogue members of the narcotics squad. By dint of perseverance, ingenuity, and good old shoe-leather reporting, the women unravel a tapestry of lies almost six years in the making. Starting with a scheme to fabricate search warrants, the scandal soon encompasses the systematic, citywide looting of immigrant-owned businesses and allegations of brutal sexual assault.
The remarkable lengths Ruderman and Laker go to for the story- chasing down witnesses on the city’s grimmest streets, sifting through archive boxes and hours of surveillance tape for crucial clues, and coaxing reluctant victims to come forward- put their determination to balance motherhood with the career they love to the ultimate test. But when they produce a devastating series of articles that blows the lid off the scandal- prompting civil lawsuits against the city and the reexamination of hundreds of convictions (although none of the officers have been charged or convicted of any crime)- they not only win the fight for justice; they also win a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, an unthinkable achievement for two city reporters at a beleaguered regional paper.

Review- This was an eye-opening and riveting read. The amount of corruption that Ruderman and Laker find just by accident was overwhelming. Ruderman and Laker were just two reporters who wanted to find the next big story but then Benny Martinez comes to them with his story they got so much more. Ruderman and Laker have to fight with the cops, lawyers, the threat of losing their jobs, and still try to have some kind of life outside of the story. In the end they find out so much more than Martinez knew and they go after more than just one dirty cop. Dirty barely begins to cover what the cops in this book are. The cops lie, steal from innocent people, rape and sexually assaulting the women they can get alone, and covering it with disdain to both the public and the badge. The fact that the cops who did all of the above are still police officers in Philadelphia just makes it so much worse. Not one of the cops has done any time for their crimes and in fact are not only getting paychecks from the city but still getting all the perks of the job with overtime and benefits. Ruderman and Laker not only lay out the corruption in unit but they disclose for the reader the fact that every ten years from 1970 to present there has been corruption in the narcotics units in Philadelphia.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I was given this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.