By Jared Chausow
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"You're not working in Midtown Manhattan, where people are walking around, smiling and being happy," a lieutenant tells officers in a November 1, 2008, roll call. "You're working in Bed-Stuy, where everyone's probably got a warrant."
On this particular day, the precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, a Lieutenant B., and a Sergeant C. are leading the session.
After attendance has been taken and assignments handed out, Mauriello, a hard-charging boss given to colorful language, exhorts the officers to disperse crowds away from certain buildings, and stop and question people.
The Voice presents excerpts from "The NYPD Tapes: Inside Bed-Stuy's 81st Precinct," from precinct roll calls between June 1, 2008 and Oct. 31, 2009.
JANUARY 28, 2009
"How Many Superstars and How Many Losers Do You Have"
In this excerpt, the 81st Precinct commander, a lieutenant and a sergeant talk about the constant pressure from bosses, and push cops to "get their numbers."
"Listen, if it's micromanaging, it's micromanaging," he says. "Just do your job. If you see a large crowd, get out [of your car]. Just do what you gotta do. You know them, you stop them. Go somewhere else. Stay off the radar."
Mauriello then relates how a three-star chief, Michael Scagnelli, closely questioned him on the number of tickets the officers write, and warns them to make their numbers. "He says, 'How many superstars and how many losers do you have?' " Mauriello says. "And then he goes down and says, 'How many summonses does your squad write?' I want everyone to step up and be accountable and work. Don't get caught out there."
He then mentions the patrol borough commander, Marino, who is apparently examining the "activity" of every cop in the 10 precincts he oversees. "If you don't want to work, then, you know what, just do the old go-through-the-motions and get your numbers anyway," he says. "He's taking this very seriously, looking at everyone's evaluations. And he's yelling at every CO [commanding officer] about 'Who gave this guy points?' or 'This girl's no good.' "
Sergeant C. then says the cops should be able to hit their numbers' targets. "I told you guys last month: They are looking at these numbers, and people are going to get moved," he says. "It ain't about losing your job. They can make your job real uncomfortable, and we all know what that means."
Next, Lieutenant B. cites the declining numbers of officers in the department. "A lot of people are leaving the job," he says. "They aren't getting new recruits. Patrol is not getting new people. It's more accountability, it's less people. They got this catchphrase, 'Do more with less,' right? And they're looking at the numbers."
He adds that the top bosses are pressuring the precinct commander, who is pressuring his supervisors, who then have to pressure the cops.
"Unfortunately, at this level in your career, you're on the lowest level, so you're going to get some orders that you may not like," he says. "You're gonna get instructions. You're gonna get disciplinary action. You gotta just pick up your work. I don't wanna get my ass chewed out, in straight words. I'm sick of getting yelled at."
THE SAME THEMES—of shit rolling downhill, and that constant pressure to do more with less—appear again and again throughout the tapes dating back to June 1, 2008.
Bosses spend more time in the roll calls haranguing the officers for "activity"—or "paying the rent," as it was known—than anything else. In other words, writing summonses, doing stop-and-frisks (known as "250s"), doing community visits, and making arrests. Or else.
Officers were under constant pressure to keep those numbers high to prove that they were doing their jobs, even when there was little justification for it. Like a drumbeat, this mandate was hammered home again and again in almost every roll call.
"Again, it's all about the numbers," a Sergeant D. tells his officers on October 18, 2009.
Command often set up special summons duty to artificially increase the numbers of tickets issued. On December 13, 2008, there was this from a Sergeant E.: "In order to increase the amount of C summonses patrol is writing, they are going to try to, when they can, put out a quality-of-life auto. Your goal is to write C summonses, all right?"
A "C summons" requires a warrant check and covers a wide range of offenses, like public drinking, disorderly conduct, littering, blocking the sidewalk, and graffiti. An "A summons" is for illegal parking, and a "B summons" is for traffic violations like running a red light or using a cell phone while driving.
Certainly, there's enforcement value to issuing tickets and stopping people on the street, but the true value of this "activity," the tapes indicate, was that it offered proof that the precinct commander and his officers were doing their jobs. With those numbers, the precinct boss could go to police headquarters with ammunition. Low numbers meant criticism and demotion; high numbers meant praise and promotion.
The NYPD has always claimed that there are no specific numerical targets or quotas. Most recently, police spokesman Paul Browne denied the existence of quotas in early March, but said that "police officers, like others who receive compensation, are provided productivity goals, and they are expected to work."
The tapes show, however, that, of course, quotas exist.
On June 12, 2008, Lieutenant B. relayed the summons target: "The XO [second-in-command] was in the other day. He actually laid down a number. He wants at least three seat belts, one cell phone, and 11 others. All right, so if I was on patrol, I would be sure to get three seat belts, one cell phone, and 11 others.