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Forum Post: NYPD on Trial: Police Say They Are Forced to Harass Kids in Order to Meet Quotas

Posted 7 years ago on March 29, 2013, 5:13 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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NYPD on Trial: Police Say They Are Forced to Harass Kids in Order to Meet Quotas

Friday, 29 March 2013 11:34 By Kristen Gwynne, AlterNet | Report


Last week, NYPD whistleblowers Adhyl Polanco and Pedro Serrano, who secretly recorded supervisors demanding that officers fill quotas, testified in federal court that they were forced to violate the law to meet numbers. "We were handcuffing kids for no reason," Polanco testified. The two officers are testifying in a class-action suit targeting the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.

Quotas for NYPD activity are illegal under New York labor law, but secretly recorded roll calls reveal supervisors pushing officers to get "20-and 1," meaning 20 summonses and 1 arrest per month. Monthly quotas also required five "250s," or street stops.

"There's a difference between" the department's policies on paper and "what goes on out there," in real life, Polanco told the court. The 40th Precinct, where Pedro Serrano serves, recorded the highest number of police stops in the Bronx in 2011. That year, Serrano recorded the 40th Precinct's commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, telling him to stop "the right people at the right time, the right location," whom he also identified as people creating "the most problems."

"The problem was, what, male blacks," Inspector McCormack said. "And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21."

"We go out there and we summons," he told Serrano.

Polanco, who is Dominican and said he is from Washington Heights, testified that he joined the case because, "I know what it's like when it's 95 degrees in an apartment on the fifth floor and you go downstairs because you had a fight with your sister, because it's simply too hot, " he said, "and get arrested in your own building for trespassing, as we have seen, get summons, get pat down, get harassed by police -- I don't believe that's why I joined the police department."

"As a Hispanic, walking in the Bronx, I have been stopped many times. It's not a good feeling," said Serrano, who grew up in the Bronx and works in the 40th Precinct.

The class-action suit, Floyd v. City of New York, will ultimately decide whether the city has systematically violated the 4th and 14th Amendments of New Yorkers via the NYPD's racial profiling tactic stop-and-frisk.

Almost 90% of more than half-a-million people stopped annually by the NYPD are black or Latino, and the majority of them are young and living in low-income areas with higher violent crime rates. Nonetheless, the arrests and summonses NYPD officers say they are forced to make are typically for low-level, nonviolent offenses. In one recording played for the court, an NYPD captain urging more activity told officers, "the summons is a money-generating machine for the city."

Police are legally allowed to stop individuals they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe are committing a crime, and they may then pat down a person if they observe a bulge that could be a weapon. But stops -- less than one percent of which uncover a firearm -- also provide the initial interaction by which officers might uncover an arrest warrant or issue a summons.

Polanco and Serrano testified that supervisors cared more about whether cops met the numbers than whether they met them legally, and that failing to do so would lead to punishment or "retaliation," which only intensified after they spoke out. They said they were advised to meet their quotas by going after young men of color for crimes they may not even have committed.

"They will never question the quality. They will question the quantity. They are not checking the 250. They are not checking the summonses. They just want to make sure we have them. How we got them, they don't really care," testified Polanco, who has been suspended from the NYPD for three years.

Serrano, unlike previous NYPD whistleblowers Polanco and Adrian Schoolcraft, whose recordings were also played to the court, is remarkably still on the job with the 40th Precinct in the Bronx. Serrano stressed that the most important police work was of the smallest concern to his bosses. "Sometime we have to sit on a dead body the whole day. Sometime we have to bring a bad car accident to the hospital, where people actually die on the way or die at the hospital. Sometime we get rapes with minors... Sometime we get domestic dispute [that] sometimes turn deadly," said Serrano. In a June 30, 2011 roll call recording for overtime Serrano says he was "forced" into due to his failure to meet quotas, Lieutenant Barrett says she is "looking for five," which Serrano explained meant five criminal summonses. She told officers, who were serving "impact" overtime that targets high-crime areas, to focus on a park in the 40th precinct. "St. Mary's Park, go crazy in there. Go crazy in there. I don't care if everybody writes everything in there. That's not a problem," she said.

In a recording one month later, Serrano captured Lieutenant Doute of the 40th Precinct demanding "five, five, and five" for each officer on the shift. Serrano explained that the numbers are quotas for five C summonses, five vertical patrols through buildings, and five 250s (stops).

"There's a lot of pressure on the sergeant to make sure that you get your activity," said Serrano, who stressed that orders are coming from the top of the city. Lieutenants and sergeants, "They have performance goals also. So they are under high pressure to make us [meet quotas]."

Serrano said that high C-summons activity appeases higher-ups who want to see that high-crime areas are being policed. "If there is a crime spike concern area, they want the C summonses to reflect the crime spike so they can say...that we addressed the condition." C summonses, or criminal misdemeanor summonses, require the person ticketed to appear in criminal court, a task that can often take a whole day, while the process itself can take months. Kids given C-summonses must miss a day of school to appear in court, and their parents are often left to foot the bill. Should they miss a court date and be stopped, a warrant for their arrest will appear, and they will be taken away handcuffed for failure to pay a now more expensive ticket they may not have deserved in the first place. In areas where summonses are a frequent occurrence, finding a sitter to watch children while you spend a day in court, or falling behind on bills to pay a summons, is a regular part of life.

"Addressing conditions" was a term regularly used in the trial, both by whistleblowers and witnesses who defended quotas they described as easily achievable "goals." Should there be a high volume of robberies in an area, for example, supervisors want to see officers ticketing people in the area. The strategy is part of the "Broken Windows" theory of policing, which maintains that low-level busts and tickets for street crimes will deter more serious offenses. Its efficacy has been hotly debated, and refuted by academics who point to a variety of other factors that decreased crime when the NYPD began implementing the policy in the 1990s. Pedro Serrano also testified that supervisors prefer certain summonses over others, noting that his bosses demand "hazardous" summonses that come with a fine rather than "correctable" summonses that allow the person to fix, for example, a busted headlight before they must pay a fine. In one recording, a lieutenant tells Serrano he is not making the correct summonses. The correct B summonses "are the ones that the city can make money on," Serrano explained, not the ones "You'll be able to correct it without financially coming out your pocket."

Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, the number of police stops has increased 600%, to well over half a million stops annually in recent years. Residents of low-income, black and Latino neighborhoods complain that they are stopped almost daily, and that the consequences of being targeted by police are severe interruptions to their lives.

Both Polanco and Serrano claimed supervisors retaliated against them for not meeting quotas, and again after blowing the whistle about their unlawful behavior. Serrano says that after he filed complaints about the NYPD's quotas and punishments for failing to meet them, his locker was shaken and stickered with rats. Other punishments for failing to meet quotas include low evaluations, denial of vacation days, separation from partners, and undesirable assignments like forced overtime shifts with additional quotas. One particularly disturbing punishment was to "drive the sergeant" or supervisor, which required the officer whose numbers were low to drive around with a higher-up until he or she found people for the patrol officer to stop, summons, or arrest, often for crimes the officers said they never observed.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

The Human Impact

Plaintiffs in the suit testified that unwarranted police stops are embarrassing, degrading experiences that harm police relations with the community.

Community activist and Harlem resident Nicholas Peart, 24, testified that in April 2011, while he went to the deli to get milk, he was stopped, searched and temporarily detained by police officers. Peart has been the primary caretaker for his three siblings, one of whom is disabled, since his mother's death a year ago.

He described to the court his sense of unease while one officer walked toward his home with his keys, "mixed in with being handcuffed for the first time, and in the back of a police car for the first time."

"I have kids in the house. I have kids in the house and there wasn't anybody there," he said, explaining that he feared the police might enter his home.

During a separate August 2007 stop on 96th and Broadway, when he and friends were ordered to get on the ground by officers who drew their guns, Peart testified that he felt embarrassed and marginalized. "They patted over my basketball shorts and I was touched," Peart said, breaking down in tears. In neighborhoods across the city, young people have complained that stop-and-frisks often become so invasive they involve an officer's hand on the suspect's genitals.

Peart testified, "I felt criminalized. My cousins, they had been visiting me from the suburbs in the Poconos, and they had never been through anything like that."

David Floyd, a plaintiff in the case, testified that in February 2008 he was stopped at his own building after retrieving a set of keys he was fumbling with to help a neighbor enter the building.

"Before we could go in, we were stopped...It was again the humiliation," Floyd said, adding that, this time, "it wasn't down the block, it wasn't in another neighborhood. It was on the property that I lived on."

"I felt that I was being told I shouldn't leave my home," he said, "I'm not a criminal."

Polanco testified that the issue with forcing illegal stops for quotas is targeting the wrong people. "I have no problem harassing criminals. I have no problem harassing those that are committing the crime or about to commit the crime," he said.

"My understanding is that when somebody commits a crime, you don't bring the whole family to court. So why should we hold the whole culture accountable for what some of them are doing?" Polanco said.

Serrano echoed his sentiments, breaking down when he told the judge he was testifying, in part, on behalf of his children. It was an emotional moment that spoke to the severe psychological effect quotas can have on police officers, and also on the community being policed. Serrano told the court, "I don't need my kid to get shot by a cop who was chasing him to fill out a 250."

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Newly Released DHS Emails Question Federal Law Enforcement's Role in Violence at OWS Rallies in Oakland and New York

Thursday, 28 March 2013 13:15 By Jason Leopold, Truthout | Report


More than a year after tens of thousands of people aligned themselves with Occupy Wall Street to protest economic and social inequality and corporate influence on government, the public still does not have a complete picture of what role, if any, the federal government played in dismantling the nationwide encampments. Unfortunately, about 250 pages of redacted documents released last week by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), in response to Truthout's 17-month-old Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, does not contain any smoking guns that would put to rest that lingering question.

The newly released documents serve as a reminder that the federal government became concerned - even fearful at times - as the Occupy protests grew in numbers. One document describes the 15,000 protesters in New York City and more than 700 protesters arrested for blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The documents are largely made up of emails sent by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service (FPS) agents from regional offices throughout the country about Occupy's plans and pending protests. Included in the batch of records are also threat assessments about certain Occupy groups. The threat assessments were based on news reports, the mining of social media platforms, such as Twitter and Faceboob, and chat rooms FPS agents monitored in which Occupy organizers discussed their goals.

The emails show that FPS agents throughout the country were largely concerned about whether the protests, which peaked in October 2011, would spill over onto federal property and, if so, what steps FPS agents should take to remove the protesters, who might have included "anarchists" in Northern California, New York City and Chicago, who may have caused "significant property damage." Some emails also capture agents' observations of the Occupy protests as they turned violent. In one email, dated October 25, 2011, an FPS agent is observing an Occupy Oakland protest and writes, "I am watching the arrests on TV. Looks like a potential for gas."

It was first thought that it was a gas canister fired by Oakland Police that critically injured Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, 24, who was hit in the head by a device that fractured his skull. Olsen's attorneys later claimed that it was a beanbag projectile and that the injury was not an accident. Oakland was the scene of the most violent response by police to the Occupy protests.

Another email, sent on October 25, 2011, by an FPS agent, whose name was redacted, describes "hundreds of OPD [Oakland Police Department] in riot gear at Frank Ogawa Plaza arresting protestors." The FPS seemed most concerned that they were not blamed for the violence that hit the streets during the worst of the protests in Oakland, especially in light of video of the violence and severe reaction by police at that October event.

An October 26, 2011, email sent to FPS agents that month by an FPS official, whose name also was redacted, said, "[redacted] would like to know the following about the OWS incidents last night [in Oakland]: Is FPS involved in any complaints about police brutality." "My initial response was no, that the marches last night were about the incident in Oakland but we need to make sure," the same FPS official wrote.

Additional questions in the email posed to FPS agents were, "Was there media coverage of the events last night which may show FPS involvement? Was tear gas deployed? OC [pepper] spray? By whom? [redacted] would like to view the CCTV [closed circuit television] footage from any incidents last night which occurred near our facilities and may have involved our personnel. I've been instructed to cruise youtube for the same thing."

A follow-up email by an FPS agent in response to those questions said FPS was not involved in any of the brutality that unfolded.

Please be advised of the following:

  1. FPS was not involved in any known complaints of police brutality.

  2. There was some media present last night; however, CCTV footage also showed that some members of the crowd were holding lights in a manner that they could have been attached to cameras.

  3. Tear gas was not deployed by any member of the Service. No use of force or known contact or hands on involvement by any member of the Service with the OWS protesters.

  4. We can send you the CCTV footage but is too big a file to be emailed. We reviewed the footage. There was no hands on activity observed by any members of the Service during this incident.

The forceful response to the Northern California protest was captured in one email, in which a police officer wrote, "I have every uniform in Oakland, SF (San Francisco), and SJ (San Jose) working tomorrow's protest. I anticipate it being larger than today's and will probably draw from the Occupy SF group."

Some emails also revolve around the escalating protests in New York City in October 2011, where New York Police Department (NYPD) officers were also accused of brutality. However, the emails blame the protesters for violence.

In an October 14, 2011, email under the subject line "Post Conf Call Wrap Up," an FPS agent wrote, "NYPD is reporting protesters have been attempting to bait officers into confrontation. Given the highly-charged emotional environment . . . I think the potential exists for an otherwise routine protest to get out of hand quickly if we are not properly prepared."

Later emails describe arrests of Occupy protesters by NYPD due to "assault of NYPD officers and damage to scooters. Plan accordingly for any future demos by this group."

In Michigan, just weeks after the formation of Occupy Wall Street in September 2011, an FPS inspector sent an email to agents about Occupy Michigan asking them to "gather more intel on these posttests (sic)."

"We have the one in Lansing, MI (at state capital), coming up that is scheduled for three days," the September 30, 2011, email states. "My concern is the US Courthouse 75 feet from that property! I am looking for info/intel that will justifies the need (sic) for an FPS presence at our facilities. Please advise when possible."

A month later, an email that noted information about Occupy Michigan collected from "open source monitoring" about upcoming protests said, "no specific threats have been identified" and added, "Information cannot be collected or maintained solely on First Amendment protected activities or on the basis of any racial, ethnic, religious, political or other profile."

A five-page report included in the newly released records, and officially released by DHS last week, was prepared by NPPD and titled, "Special coverage: Occupy Wall Street October 2011." Rolling Stone first reported the existence of the five-page report last year, after reporter Michael Hastings found it in a cache of documents released by WikiLeaks.

This report belied the concerns of FPS agents involved in monitoring Occupy Michigan, as communicated in the above email.

The report said, "OWS protests have placed a considerable burden on emergency services personnel to control crowds, protect critical infrastructure, and maintain public order. Although there have been hundreds of arrests made, most have been for minor offenses, and confrontations between police and protesters have been rare. Police departments have sought to minimize these types of incidents, enhance security and heighten awareness through public-private information sharing."

A November 1, 2011, email written by an FPS agent in San Francisco showed interest in stopping the OWS encampments. The camps were subsequently taken down as OWS shifted its focus from encampments to political action.

"Several law enforcement organizations have undertaken steps to discontinue Occupy encampments within their jurisdictions or are in negotiations with demonstrators to close them down," the email reads.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by roblowis (3) 7 years ago

Why not file charges against the NYC Police Chief for kidnapping as he is, I believe, legally responsible for the actions of the officers. He will likely make sure it doesn't happen again even if he is the perpetrator.