Two newspaper reporters explain how they broke open police corruption in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Daily News reporters Ruderman and Laker deliver an All the President’s Men–type book, examining their investigation of police corruption, which began in late 2008 when a law enforcement source suggested that a career criminal named Benny Martinez contact the reporters about illegal activity he had conducted with narcotics officer Jeffrey Cujdik. Martinez would identify alleged drug dealers and users to Cujdik, whose narcotics squad would raid their homes, keeping some of the proceeds for themselves. In addition, one of Cujdik’s colleagues would sometimes assault women at the site of the raids. Eventually, the reporters learned of a related thread of misconduct in which his narcotics squad would burst in on retail storeowners, disabling security cameras while stealing cash and merchandise under the guise of the merchants selling drug-related supplies. Since the stories fearlessly named names, some Philadelphia cops were demoted amid citizen outrage. Ruderman and Laker disclose, however, that none of the police officers ever lost their jobs or faced criminal charges. The newspaper’s investigations eventually garnered the authors the Pulitzer Prize for reporting. All the while, the newspaper was so strapped for cash that it was in and out of bankruptcy proceedings, with its very existence in doubt. In addition to chronicling their journalistic investigations, Ruderman and Laker tell their personal stories, disclosing their workaholic habits, quirky personalities and deep friendship in a breezy writing style that occasionally borders on maudlin. Despite the stylistic distractions, however, the narrative offers an insightful view of high-risk, high-reward investigative journalism, made more poignant by recent severe cutbacks in newsrooms around the country.
All the President’s Men it’s not, but Ruderman and Laker provide a welcome addition to the shelves of books about the mechanics and logistics of journalistic exposés.