Six Philadelphia narcotics cops were acquitted today on all 26 counts of federal corruption charges against them. The six were arrested in sting operations last year and stood accused of stealing drug money, planting evidence, and abusing suspects.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a good summation of officers Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, John Speiser, and ringleader Thomas Liciardello’s alleged sordid history:

In six weeks of testimony, government witnesses repeatedly said the squad conducted their duties like street thugs. They accused the officers of employing ganglike tactics like roughing up drug suspects, ignoring due process, planting evidence, pocketing seized money and lying on official police reports to cover up their crimes.

Targets who put up a fight, they said, were dangled over balconies, threatened with the seizure of their homes, held in hotel rooms for days, or beaten as the officers kept score on who could inflict the most debilitating injuries.

The jury was apparently unconvinced of the unit’s wrongdoing following testimony from other police officers who said they accompanied the group on drug raids “and never saw anything untoward”; the cops’ lawyers also argued in court that the government built their case “solely on the word of drug suspects and disgraced former officer Jeffrey Walker.”

Walker was also a part of the narcotics unit, but turned on the group and testified last month to many of the accusations that have long dogged the squad: that they skimmed money confiscated in drug busts, planted evidence “too many times to count,” and beat suspects.

Although the group was acquitted of charges today, the Inquirer notes that they face “dozens of federal civil rights lawsuits.” (All six were suspended from the force shortly after their arrests by federal authorities.) And because of the accusations against the officers and the FBI’s investigation, at least 450 drug convictions have been overturned.

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