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New Haven police to shut down narcotics unit following arrests

HARTFORD, Conn. --New Haven police announced Wednesday that they are disbanding their narcotics unit and handing over some of its cases to state authorities in response to the arrests of two officers on theft charges resulting from FBI stings.

Police Chief Francisco Ortiz said he expected several more arrests of current or former officers and did not rule out charges against officers of other departments.

"It's a big investigation," Ortiz said outside U.S. District Court in Hartford, following a court appearance by one of the accused officers. "I think what you're seeing here today is just a sampling of what's to come."

Ortiz said the narcotics unit will be shut down Friday and drug investigations will be turned over to the statewide narcotics task force and detectives and patrol officers in other units.

The department will assign new leaders to the detective bureau and assess its rules, guidelines and training, said Ortiz and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano.

"We've got to basically start from the very beginning," Ortiz said. "We're not going to miss a beat as far as fighting crime and narcotics in New Haven."

The two officers and three bail bondsmen were arrested Tuesday in an eight-month investigation by federal and state authorities that included phone wiretaps and nearly 200 conversations recorded by an undercover officer. Federal agents raided police headquarters and several homes.

Lt. William White, the head of the narcotics unit, was charged with stealing nearly $30,000 in what he thought was drug money, but was actually cash planted by the FBI at investigation scenes. He was also accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from the bail bondsmen in return for capturing fugitives who skipped bail.

White, 63, was freed from federal custody on Wednesday after several relatives put up their homes as collateral to post the $2 million bond set by U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith.

White's wife, Nancy, pleaded with Smith to set bail and not order him detained during the court case. She promised that her husband would show up for his court appearances.

"My husband is a wonderful man. He has spent his entire life devoted to his family," she said. "We need him home with us desperately."

Nancy White added that relatives always go to "Uncle Billy" when they have a problem.

Federal prosecutor David Ring asked the judge to confine White to his home with electronic monitoring, but Smith declined, saying the prospect of relatives losing their homes would be enough to ensure White appears in court. Smith set a probable cause hearing for April 2.

"If he does not show up, a lot of people are going to suffer a whole lot of hurt," Smith said.

The judge also said he believed the evidence against White was overwhelming, and he expected the officer to serve prison time if convicted.

White referred questions to his attorney, Hubert Santos, who declined comment after the hearing.

Santos told the judge that White is a 39-year veteran of the department who has received numerous awards and honors.

"He obviously had a very important and productive career with New Haven police," Santos said.

Smith had ordered White detained on Tuesday pending a psychological exam, in concern over comments White made that indicated he might harm himself. Results of that testing were not released.

White and members of his family hugged and cried after the judge decided to set bail. His mother, two sons, daughter and several other relatives also attended the hearing.

Narcotics Detective Justen Kasperzyk, 34, was also arrested, charged with stealing less than $1,000 in money planted by the FBI. He was also accused of taking $800 from the girlfriend of a suspect arrested by narcotics officers.

Both White and Kasperzyk have been placed on paid leave pending the results of the prosecution.

The three New Haven bail bondsmen -- Robert Jacobs, 79, and his sons, Paul Jacobs, 48, and Philip Jacobs, 47 -- are charged with bribery conspiracy, accused of paying tens of thousands of dollars to White and other officers to apprehend fugitives who skipped bail. Prosecutors said the bondsmen posted the fugitives' bonds and were at risk of losing a lot of money if they were not caught.

Kasperzyk and the bondsmen posted bail on Tuesday. They also have probable cause hearings scheduled for April 2.

DeStefano said he continued to have confidence in Ortiz.

"This was such outrageous behavior," DeStefano said. "There's nothing that suggests to me this is a systemic or institutional problem."

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Associated Press Writer John Christoffersen in New Haven, Conn., contributed to this report.

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