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From that point forward, Adams began looking differently at the department where he worked. In 2004, he discovered Polaroids — apparently confidential photos from a sexual assault case — pinned to a police station bulletin board. They were of a tear-streaked, grimacing woman holding her shirt up to show her stomach and lower back. Each photo was scrawled with a love note to "Chique," one officer's nickname: "Chique, you know you want me, I want you now, call me."
That same year, Adams was offended to find officers drawing mustaches and eyepatches on desk-taped photos of a homicide victim. "These are the people we're supposed to be protecting," he says. "Instead, we're humiliating them."
Also in 2004, Adams claims to have witnessed fellow cop Paul D. Angelo improperly arrest 47-year-old Gregory McKinney. He was standing in front of his Liberty City home fixing a bicycle tire when Angelo, apparently searching for a machete-wielding robbery suspect, drove up.
The cop claimed he had "observed a cylindrical bulge" in McKinney's pocket during a "field interview" and "for [Angelo's] safety" had conducted the pat-down, which revealed a "sharp razor blade within a metal sheath."
Adams witnessed the arrest and immediately recognized the problem: Box cutters aren't illegal.
The concealed weapon charge was dismissed, but not until McKinney, a roofer with prior arrests for cocaine possession, spent a week in jail.
So Adams persuaded McKinney to file a complaint. Then he began investigating what he termed a "false arrest," interviewing several witnesses on his own. He then presented his findings to superiors.
Police authorities weren't convinced. On August 12, 2009, they dismissed the complaint against Angelo, who has since become a sergeant, and suspended Adams for five days for improperly investigating another officer.
But there's been some good news for Adams. In June, police authorities sustained Gaines's complaint that cops had abused him. Though it's unclear whether any of the officers involved will receive discipline, the decision could provide ammunition for a civil case or even, potentially, criminal charges.
Adams, who was out for several months with stress-related health problems, will be back on duty when this story is published. He knows he might be a target for revenge. "I expect to be ostracized, but it doesn't matter," he says. "It's what I believe in."