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(exclusive photo not Michael Dowd)

He still walks like a cop. Head erect, eyes darting to the left, to the right. Evaluating each person around him. Feet moving swiftly. But Michael Dowd's days as a police officer are long gone, undone by the excess of sordid crimes he committed on the job.

By the time he was stripped of his NYPD badge and sent to prison in 1994, Dowd had become the poster boy for dirty cops.

A decade later, Dowd is out on the streets again, stripped of his swagger and just about everything he once held dear.

"I'm just a lost soul trying to put my life back together," he told the Daily News.

"I lost everything. My wife. My kids. I don't expect any sympathy. What I did was wrong. I paid the price," Dowd, 42, said.

"I've made it through. I've dealt with a lot of bad things. I need to make it back to life."

The News caught up with Dowd, who was quietly released from prison last week, at a federal halfway house in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

His new home is across the street from a hardscrabble housing project in a neighborhood similar to the one he once patrolled in the 75th Precinct, a Brooklyn ghetto visibly wrecked by poverty and drugs.

He used his badge and revolver for criminal gain, organizing a crew of more than a dozen crooked cops who raided Brooklyn drug dens for cash and cocaine. They collected up to $8,000 a week in "protection" money.

Dowd's downfall came in 1992, when Suffolk County cops busted the rogue cop's drug ring on Long Island. But even after the cuffs were slapped on him, his reign of terror continued.

While out on bail, he schemed to make more money. One plot involved getting paid to kidnap and kill the widow of a Colombian drug lord. Another plan involved robbing a drug stash house - using the proceeds to flee to Nicaragua with his wife and two little boys.

"I'm a different human being now," Dowd told The News. "I paid my debt. I want to make amends. I want to do the right thing. I learned my lesson the hard way. Everything is gone."

The sun cast a shadow on Dowd as he skulked down Marcy Ave. Wednesday, his hands shoved in the pocket of a quilted navy Carhart jacket, the kind preferred by plainclothes cops.

It was a long way from his past, when he had four houses on Long Island and took weekend trips to Atlantic City in a limousine. He drove a $35,000 red Corvette back then to his tour at the 75th Precinct, wore expensive suits on plainclothes assignments and boasted of lavish tropical vacations - all while bringing home a cop's paltry salary of $400 a week.

A small, sinewy man, his real muscle comes from his intense blue eyes. When he looks up, he instinctively throws a "murder-one stare," as cops call it, a stony glare daring someone to challenge him.

He had spent Wednesday looking for work with little success.

Residents of the six-story coed halfway house must be employed, but Dowd hasn't found anything yet.

His résumé is hardly attractive: a dirty cop who tarnished the badge and then ratted out his friends when he testified before the Mollen Commission - a police corruption panel created by former Mayor David Dinkins.

"Who is going to give me a job?" Dowd said. "I'm still in a dangerous situation. People don't like me because [of] who I used to be. I've done a lot of bad things. I've survived a lot of dangerous situations.

"I need a break," he said. "I need a job."

Dirty officer's twisted, tragic fall from grace

1982: Michael Dowd joins NYPD as a 20-year-old rookie. Within weeks, he takes free drinks and pizza, he later tells the Mollen Commission, a panel created by former Mayor David Dinkins in response to the crimes he committed.

1983: Dowd becomes a patrol cop in Brooklyn's 75th Precinct, in East New York. Within a year, he forms a crew of cops that begins robbing drug dealers of up to $500 a week.

1986: Known on the streets as "Mike the Cop," he begins charging drug dealers as much as $8,000 a week for "protection." He begins to participate in kidnappings of drug dealers and sells stolen drugs on Long Island.

1988: NYPD Internal Affairs Sgt. Joe Trimbole begins to investigate Dowd, but claims he did not get support from police brass on the case.

1988 to 1992: NYPD brass receive numerous complaints about Dowd, who flaunts his ill-gotten wealth by driving a $35,000 Corvette, owning four posh homes and wearing expensive clothes.

May 6, 1992: Dowd and five other cops are arrested by Suffolk County police in a case dubbed "The Losers' Club" for dealing drugs on Long Island. Dowd is carrying cocaine in his uniform pocket when arrested on duty.

Late 1992: While awaiting trial, Dowd writes letters to drug dealers and plots to kidnap the widow of a Colombian drug lord - all to fund his plan to flee to Nicaragua with his wife and kids.

September 1993: Dowd testifies before the Mollen Commission.

1994: Dowd is sentenced to 14 years in prison, where he tearfully apologizes to fellow officers. "It's a very difficult job. And I made it more difficult."

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