Mike Dowd

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

Mike Dowd
Interview by Dennis Morgillo

Once referred to as the most corrupt cop in NYC history, Mike Dowd spent 12 years in prison for his role as ring leader of a rogue group of cops from Brooklyn’s notorious crime-ridden 75th precinct in East New York. Conspiracy, drugs, kidnapping, money, corruption, racketeering, it’s all detailed in the incredible documentary ‘The Seven Five’.  Dowd and his partner Kenny Eurell ran amok during the 1980’s, eventually getting busted for dealing drugs on Long Island. Hear the fascinating story in Dowd’s own words. 

Madhouse Magazine: The way I see this, you were a scapegoat,. It appears you took the fall. There were many involved in the corruption, but you were the only one to do time. Not to mention all the corrupt politicians who are stealing money from the hard working tax payers. At least you were stealing from drug dealers.​
Mike Dowd: The reality is, I dealt with the street thugs, I was taking money from drug dealers, which is wrong, I should have been arresting them. People are not aware that in the 1980’s, there was a crack epidemic and the police policy was “hands off” drug dealers. They didn’t want us arresting the dealers and overwhelming the jails, the courts, and they also didn’t want to pay for all the overtime for the cops. Nothing justifies what I did, what the thousands of us did, but the department left this gap where the public thought where we were working with the drug dealers anyway, because we weren’t allowed to arrest them. We were under appreciated and under paid. We thought maybe this was a way to make some money. A lot of us did, thousands of us did. They put the label on me as the most notorious, but that’s fine, I will take it, to take the heat off of everyone else.   

Madhouse: What was your childhood like?
Dowd: I was one of 7 kids in an Irish Catholic family. I was the one of the best students in my entire school. I did very well, I never missed a class, I was very studious. I graduated number 80 out of 800 kids in the school. My father was a firefighter and worked 3 other jobs to make ends meet. My Mother was a home maker and my brothers and sisters are all civil servants. Firemen, Cops and Teachers. I grew up in Brentwood Long Island on a block with 40 Cops and Firemen.  
Madhouse: So now you become a cop and you are working at the 75th precinct in the East New York section of Brooklyn. This was the 1980’s, during a crack epidemic. I worked at Brookdale Hospital during this time, in the heart of East New York Brooklyn. I saw the horrors first hand. This was a terrible place to be, shootings and stabbings every night. The highest crime rate in the country. I liken it to the zombie apocalypse. Can you tell us what it was like from your perspective as a Cop?
Dowd: It was a matter of, are we going home tonight. There was never a night when something didn’t go down. Quiet nights were the scary nights. One of the quietest nights we had was ‘The Palm Sunday Massacre’. 10 people were shot on Liberty Avenue. The quiet days were eerie. It was incredible how that happened. 
Madhouse: This was comparable to being at war for you guys. Witnessing the worst of people, day after day. It has to take a toll on you.
Dowd: I know I have PTSD, and I was never in the military. When you can sit down and have a spaghetti dinner next to a guy who’s brains are laying on the floor next to you. You are licking the plate at the end of the meal, you have to say there’s something wrong with this picture here. And they wonder, are you a sociopath? Maybe. How could you not be? You have to be able to disconnect from what’s going on around you, or it will eat you up inside.  
Madhouse: What do you think of the current climate, where so many are critical of the police?
Dowd: Police are not allowed to make a mistake. Police are human. Mistakes are made every day, but you cant say that. You have to justify your actions. They are asking a human to do the job of a machine, and it’s not an easy place to be. I am not talking about a cop that shoots someone in the back. There is no way to justify that. The reality is, Police interact with civilians a million times a day.  There is bound to be a small fraction of stuff that goes down. 
Madhouse: In 1987, you become partners with Ken Eurell. How did this come about?
Dowd: I was transferred to Coney Island for a while and then The 77th precinct went down for corruption. Lots of cops retired. I had a family, I couldn’t retire. I was left standing there, but then the department brushed everything under the rug. It all quieted down, and it all went back to normal. I went back to the 75th, but no one would work with me because they felt I was working for the man. How else could I still be standing.  They assumed I was working for Internal Affairs. That’s the reason Kenny’s wife didn’t want him working with me. It was Not because they thought I was corrupt.  
Madhouse: ‘The Seven Five’ documentary is maybe the best documentary I have ever seen. You guys are such characters. It’s like a real life ‘GoodFellas’. How did the documentary come about.  
Dowd: This is better than GoodFellas. Kenny was out there looking to sell a documentary for years. Trying to make more money off of me. They weren’t interested in doing his life story. I am the main fall guy. The Hollywood people came to me and said they are doing a documentary about the Mollen Commission. Tiller Russell & Eli Holzman. I said F Off, no one cares about the Mollen Commission. I told them to do a documentary about the boys of the 75. I met with Tiller on Long Island, and I drove him around for about an hour telling him stories. He was drooling. He calls the production company and they cancel what they have had for the last 6 months. He tells them, “we are going in a new direction, I have a star in the car”. I told him, if you do what I tell you to do, you will be famous and rich, he’s now writing for Chicago Fire, and working with Ron Howard.    
Madhouse: You were young guys, not making much money, risking your lives. It had to bother you to see all these drug dealers with all this money?
Dowd: Yes and we taxed them. People have to understand, it could have been them as well. They could have been in my place, and they would have had to decide. Yes or No. We are all fallible human beings.  When you are watching a 17 year old kid driving a Jaguar, gold around his neck and cash in his pocket, and you can’t pay your bills. It’s very tempting. What I did was wrong, there are no justifications, but you try to rationalize it to yourself. 
Madhouse: In 1991 you start selling drugs on Long Island, and you end up getting busted. 
Dowd: Yes the documentary wasn’t clear about this. Ken was already retired for 3 years when he calls me up and wants me to get him a piece. I don’t know his business and have no idea what he’s up to. I haven’t been around him for months. I arrange for it to happen and bingo, I end up on his wire. I would have been retired with a pension, but Ken didn’t know how to play the game. He got bored and greedy. 
Madhouse: What were you charged with? 
Dowd: Suffolk County picked me up for conspiracy to distribute drugs. We get out on bail, and Ken gets me on the wire again, and I end up with a federal racketeering indictment for all the things we did in the past. 
Madhouse: You ended up spending 12 years in jail.
Dowd: Yes I was sentenced to 14 years and did about 12 years.
Madhouse: You paid your dues, you paid your debt to society. How was it trying to acclimate back into society?
Dowd: When I got out, it took me 9 years to get a real job. Benefits, the whole thing. I had filmed the documentary prior, but when it gets released, they terminate me. When you lock someone up, and they get out, you have to give the guy a chance. An opportunity to move on. 
Madhouse: What do you think of the drug laws and the war on drugs?
Dowd: I think we should get rid of all of them. People should do what they want with their bodies, and if they need help, give them help. The jails would be empty. Speaking personally, when I am told not to do something, I want to do it more. 
Madhouse: What did you do to stay busy in prison?
Dowd: I read, I worked out, I ran the addiction programs, I worked as a peer counselor, I ran the suicide prevention programs. Jail you sit there waiting for something to happen. In prison, you live the best life you can in the confines of the walls. Every person in prison is watching you. 1,800 men knew who I was, but I didn’t know them. The lord was my shepherd. I walked the track alone. Prison is not as violent as it is portrayed on TV, but it can be in a second. If you mind your own business and you are not soft, you can make it through without too much happening. I had to confront a few guys for talking smack, and threatening. I would get in their face, and say when do you want to do it and where?  A guy came at me with a knife. The next day we straightened it out so we could go forward with the rest of our days and not looking behind us.

Madhouse: How did this whole experience change you?
Dowd: I try not to waste my days. I have 2 children who I try to be a Dad to. We have a good relationship now. I try to be a better person today, then I was yesterday.  Me and my Ex get along now. She was a wonderful woman. She tried to tell me to stop, but I wouldn’t listen.  Men take a lot longer to grow up.  
Madhouse: So what’s next?
Dowd: I am working on a book deal, there is a movie in the works as well. It’s all in the works. I started a cigar line with Adam Diaz as well. ‘The Seven Five’ cigars.  


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