An Honest Cop vs. the FBI: Dillon’s Story of ‘The Thin Blue Lie’
Back in 1978, Greg Dillon took his first law enforcement job with the Branford Police Department (BPD). Twenty years later, after working for the FBI, then joining the Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney’s Office, Greg filed—and won—a landmark whistleblower court ruling based on FBI misconduct he’d discovered, reported—and then learned was covered up by his boss at the time: Connecticut’s chief state attorney.
Ultimately, a jury sided with Greg, awarding him $2.7 million for suffering and damage and infringement of his First Amendment rights. While Greg won the case—and even the support and assistance of legendary whistleblower Frank Serpico—the next decade of his law enforcement career would be filled with retaliation.
Now, Greg’s true accounting of events leading up to the trial that took this state by storm and the fallout from doing the right thing is revealed in his new book, The Thin Blue Lie: An Honest Cop vs. The FBI (Bombardier Books, Feb. 2022).
Greg took his first police exam and was immediately hired as a Branford supernumerary soon after graduating from the University of New Haven, where he counted Dr. Henry Lee as a favorite professor and felt lucky to be among those studying in one of the very few four-year criminal justice programs available in the country at that time. He worked part-time as a Branford police officer until 1981, when he was brought on full-time.
“They hired six officers at one time, and so I was working full time as a patrol officer,” says Greg, who remembers the town as a bit more rowdy back then, with BPD working hard on the weekends to keep up with bar fights and drivers pulled over for being under the influence.
In 1985, Greg left BPD to become an FBI special agent, staying with the bureau through 1990 before coming back to Connecticut from his post in Washington, D.C., to become an investigator with the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office. A New Haven native who had lived for a time in Branford and is now a long-time North Haven resident, Greg says he was reluctant to leave the FBI, but was happy to be back in Connecticut.
“I transferred to the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office in 1990 as an inspector because it was the only way I could really get back to Connecticut, which was where all my family and friends were, and that was important to me,” he says. “Once I realized I was going to be in the D.C. area for bulk of my [FBI] career,; when the [Connecticut] position became available, I applied and got the job.”
He spent several years working different assignments for the Office of Chief State Attorney John Bailey. When Bailey decided to form a fugitive squad, “...I was the first member to apply,” says Greg, who got the job and went on to be named supervisor.
In fact, he was the only one who got the job, at first.
“No one else applied,” says Greg. “Most of my colleagues were retirees or middle aged. I was the youngest inspector there at the time, and the kind of work I found attractive they had no interest in. The hours were odd; the conditions were harsh; the climate could be dangerous.”
Together with a brand-new inspector, Greg began his work with the task force. When the FBI reached out to the office to combine forces with its fugitive task force, Greg came to the New Haven FBI office to work with the team. It was there that Greg began to recognize some warning signs.
“I was reading one of my warrants after it had been filed, and I realized the information is fictitious, and the fictitious information has been attributed to me,” he says. “The first time it happened, I was hoping it was an isolated incident. I tried to rationalize it could have been a miscommunication. But it stuck in the back of my mind.”
Between about 1994 and 1996, Greg could only access a handful of the warrants he’d filed, as most were sent back to the main office after they were filed in court. The information he was seeing was from files he’d opened on fugitives as part of his investigations. Without his knowledge, some of those investigation files had been altered to improve the chances of obtaining a federal arrest warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for a federal offense, also known as a UFAP.
“The FBI was motivated to get federal warrants for fugitives to sort of justify their involvement in the process, and they also got credit for that, which translated into a financial bonus, often times,” says Greg. “So they were always looking for the opportunity to obtain a federal arrest warrant UFAP...and unfortunately, I think it influenced them to start cutting corners. When a federal warrant was rejected because the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the judge didn’t really believe that the fugitive had left the state and was somewhere else, they began to embellish the facts—but worse, using us [Greg and his inspectors] as the source of information, without our knowledge.”
Greg next consulted with a few of the inspectors assigned to him, asking if they would go back and review their warrants. Even though there were only a very small number available to review, “one inspector found three warrants that had been changed, and one inspector found one,” says Greg, who had found three of his own. “At this point now, we’re up to seven, and this is only a fraction of what we could review. This is crisis mode now, because there’s a saying: ‘One time is an accident, two times is a coincidence, three times is a pattern.’”
Greg was at a crossroads. Was he going to allow it to continue, and have his name on falsified federal reports with his knowledge? Or was he going to bring it to his supervisor’s attention? Greg knew what he had to do. Because FBI agents were falsifying affidavits and using his name and the name of his men as the sources of that false information, “it fell on my shoulders to bring it up the chain of command,” he says.
And that’s where the story begins. Copies of The Thin Blue Lie are available now at www.thinblueliebook.com.
Greg, who retired from law enforcement in 2009, is donating 10 percent of all book profits to Shepherd’s (www.shepherdsmentors.org) a non-profit helping inner-city Connecticut high school students with the potential to thrive in a private high school and excel academically and personally with the guidance of a dedicated adult mentor. Greg has been a Shepherd’s mentor since 2002 and joined the executive board in 2019. He’s currently mentoring his ninth student at his high school alma mater, Notre Dame High School in West Haven.
Speaking of mentors, Greg can count none other than Frank Serpico among his own. After learning of Greg’s court case, Serpico had agreed to come to Connecticut to testify as an expert witness on Greg’s behalf in an injunction hearing connected to Bailey’s media gag policy versus Greg’s right to free speech. After they met, Greg had a heart-to-heart with Serpico about being called a “rat” by some for his whistleblower account of the FBI misconduct scandal and resulting cover-ups.
As Greg recalls it, “He said, ‘Let me tell you something—neither one of us is a rat. A rat is somebody who gets caught breaking the law, and now, in an effort to get themselves out of a jam, rolls over on their colleagues and implicates other people. I didn’t break any laws. You didn’t break any laws. Neither one of us are rats. The rats are the people that we reported. Those are the true rats. Hold your head up. We’re lamplighters, we’re whistleblowers. We are not rats.”