NEW YORK. Adrian Schoolcraft, police officer in the 81st precinct in Brooklyn, New York taped his fellow NYPD colleagues in a five-part series written by Graham Rayman in the Village Voice. Schoolcraft initially began carrying a recorder to protect himself against false accusations by civilians. What ensued was evidence that the New York City Police Department continues to engage in illegal practices such as fudging crime numbers, conducting unfounded arrests and writing unwarranted tickets or summonses to prove that police activity is up and crime is down.
In a practice particular to New York City, police officers are required to meet productivity measures, which are otherwise known as quotas. “The notion is, if you tell officers they have to bring in a certain number of arrests [they] will figure out a way to meet that quota,” explains Dr. Dolores Brown professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It may be a threat to officer integrity.”
Officer integrity was in question during one conversation recorded by Schoolcraft when Stephen Mauriello, commander of the 81st precinct, told his team on Halloween of 2008 to “cuff” and throw any “roving bands of more than two or three people” into jail and deal with paperwork later. “You’re on a foot post? [BLEEP] it. Take the first guy you’ve got and lock them all up. Boom.”
“The U.S. Constitution says officials of the government including police officers are not allowed to stop people on the street […] unless they have suspicion of criminal activity,” says Darius Charney, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights. When looking at the low hit rate of illegal contraband found during those stops, Charney says, “It doesn’t seem that they’re using reasonable suspicion at all.”
Schoolcraft recorded another telling command given during roll call:
“The Executive Officer was in the other day. I don’t know who was here. He actually laid down a number. […] I’m not going to quote him on that, because I don’t want to be quoted stating numbers. He wants at least three seat belts, one cell phone, and 11 others. I don’t know what the number is, but that’s what he wants.”
By “seat belts, cell phone and 11 others,” the Sergent is referring to summonses for people not wearing their seat belt, talking on their cell phone while driving, and eleven other reasons to write someone a ticket. What becomes of these types of orders is this–as told by a man who was written a traffic ticket while he was speaking to an investigator about his hit-and-run just moments earlier:
“The investigator told me to enclose the accident report with the ticket and it would be dismissed. I did as instructed and thought the matter closed. A year later, I received a “Motion to Vacate Judgment” and a form to substantiate the motion. I filled out the form and enclosed another copy of the accident report. In response, I received a letter, indicating that they had detached the accident report from the Motion and demanded payment.”
Yet more serious crimes deserving of investigation are apparently being under-reported, the tapes and other evidence finds. Felonies are classified as misdemeanors (a man who was beaten and robbed of his wallet and cellphone was classified as “lost property”), or they disappear from statistics altogether.
Graham Rayman, reporter for the Village Voice, tells Ira Glass on This American Life how a high ranking detective named Harold Hernandez discovers– from the offender himself– that the offender was previously arrested about seven times for sexual assault. This dumbfounded Det. Hernandez because it was never made known that there was a sexual predator in the area. Hernandez did his research and found that the crime complaints made against the offender were downgraded. Rayman says,
“[Hernandez] realizes that they’ve been classified either as criminal trespassing or criminal possession of a weapon– both relatively minor crimes, given that the actual conduct in the narrative that the victims are describing is either first degree burglary, robbery, or sexual abuse, sexual assault. And he confronts his bosses about it. He confronts the precinct commander. And he confronts his detective squad commander. And everyone just shrugs. Meanwhile everyone’s terrified that it’s going to come out– that these women are going to go to the press, and it’s going to be a huge embarrassment, a huge scandal for the department.”
So what became of Schoolcraft and his tapes? Before the Village Voice broke the story, Schoolcraft went to his superiors with his concerns. According to the New York Times, “On the evening of Oct. 31, 2009, Officer Schoolcraft, who had gone home sick from work, was forcibly taken from his home in Queens by senior police officials and delivered to a hospital psychiatric ward.”
He is now suing the police department for facing retaliation for telling the truth. He was suspended for two years without pay.