Robert Lewis on how his reporting triggered an internal investigation of suspicious dealings made by active-duty New York police officers.
WNYC radio reporter Robert Lewis had been hounding New York Assistant Police Chief Edward Delatorre for weeks. He’d called. He’d emailed. He’d gone through the New York Public Affairs office. But he was getting nowhere and he had an urgent question.
Lewis had learned that the assistant chief bought property from a missing loan shark, a man named Vincent “Jimmy” Durso, while the police department was actively investigating Durso’s disappearance. Naturally, Lewis wanted to know why.
So, when he got no answer, he went to building a Delatorre owned in the Bronx. When Lewis confronted him there, Delatorre tried to make a run for it. He had his assistant pull up a car, double park it in front of the building, then he briskly walked out and hopped in the passenger seat.
Lewis trailed him and asked, on tape, several times over: “Why did you buy property from a missing loan shark?”
Delatorre never answered.
It turns out Delatorre’s property purchase was just the tip of the iceberg.
Lewis ultimately learned that dozens of top department officials supplement their income with outside jobs and businesses, some of which, like Delatorre’s, appeared to conflict with, or even emerge from, the department’s work in law enforcement. The stories ultimately prompted two separate investigations, one internally, by the police department itself, and another from the New York City Department of Investigation.
Today Lewis tells us how the story came together in our season-opening episode of The Breakthrough, the ProPublica podcast where investigative reporters reveal how they nailed their biggest stories.
We believe it’s important, now more than ever, to show people how real, in-depth investigative journalism gets done. Our podcast aims to put listeners alongside reporters as they endure sleepless nights, pore over records, cultivate sources and experience all the adrenaline and anxiety that comes with cracking a breakthrough story.
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