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"Pick it up a lot, if you have to," he says. "The CO gave me some names. I spoke to you."
While the NYPD can set "productivity targets," the department cannot tie those targets to disciplinary action: "What turns it into an illegal quota is when there is a punishment attached to not achieving, like a transfer or loss of assignment," says Al O'Leary, a spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
In the 81st Precinct, however, the tapes indicate that "activity" was routinely tied to direct and implied threats of discipline. The message, relayed down the chain from headquarters, is repeated over and over again in the roll calls by the precinct commander, the lieutenants, and the sergeants.
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."
On October 28, 2008, for example, the precinct commander, Mauriello, tells officers he will change their shifts if they don't make their numbers: "If I hear about disgruntled people moaning about getting thrown off their tours, it is what it is. Mess up, bring heat on the precinct—you know what, I'll give you tough love, but it doesn't mean you can't work your way back into good graces and get back to the detail and platoon you want."
He adds: "If you don't work, and I get the same names back again, I'm moving you. You're going to go to another platoon. I'm done. I don't want to be embarrassed no more."
On July 15, 2008, he says, "I don't want to see anyone get hurt. This job is all about hurting. Someone has to go. Step on a landmine, someone has to get hurt."
On December 8, 2008, he excoriates officers who failed to write enough tickets for double-parking, running red lights, and disorderly conduct, and who failed to stop-and-frisk enough people.
"I see eight fucking summonses for a 20-day period or a month," he says. "If you mess up, how the hell do you want me to do the right thing by you? You come in, five parkers, three A's, no C's, and the only 250 you do is when I force you to do overtime? I mean it's a two-way street out here."
Later, he adds, "In the end, I hate to say it—you need me more than I need you because I'm what separates the wolves from coming in here and chewing on your bones."
In the same roll call, Sergeant C. adds: "When I tell you to get your activity up, it's for a reason, because they are looking to move people, and he's serious. . . . There's people in here that may not be here next month."
The pressure is the worst at the end of the month and at the end of every quarter, because that's when the precinct has to file activity reports on each officer with the borough command and police headquarters. (Put another way: If you want to avoid getting a ticket, stay away from police officers during the last few days of the month, when the pressure for numbers is the highest.)
From the tapes, it's not hard to imagine an officer desperately driving to the precinct, looking for someone smoking pot on a stoop or double-parking to fill some gap in their productivity.
In a roll call from September 26, a Sergeant F. notes that the quarter is coming to an end, and a deadline is nearing for applying to take the sergeants' exam. "If your activity's been down, the last quarter is a good time to bring it up, because that's when your evaluation is going to be done," he says. "We all know this job is, 'What have you done for me lately?' "
He goes on to lay on the pressure for more numbers. "This is crunch time," he says. "This is Game Seven of the World Series, the bases are loaded, and you're at bat right now. . . . It's all a game, ladies and gentlemen. We do what we're supposed to, the negative attention goes somewhere else. That's what we want."
And take August 31, 2009. Sergeant Rogers tells his officers, "Today is the last day of the month. Get what you need to get."
Or as Sergeant F. says just a few days before that: "It's the 26th. If you don't have your activity, it would be a really good time to get it. . . . If I don't have to hear about it from a white shirt [a superior officer], that's the name of the game."
IT'S ALSO CLEAR FROM THE recordings that supervisors viewed the constant pressure for numbers as an annoyance, busy work to fill the demand from downtown. "We had a shooting on midnight on Chauncey, so do some community visits, C summonses over there, the usual bullshit," Sergeant A. says in an August 22, 2009, roll call.
The obsession with statistics at police headquarters bleeds out into the borough commands as well. In early 2009, the Brooklyn North patrol command started holding its own CompStat meetings, reviewing everything from crime stats to the number of tickets written by each officer to sick reports.
The move was seen in the precinct as yet another layer of unnecessary oversight. "This job is just getting tighter and tighter with accountability," Lieutenant B. says on January 13, 2009. "So there are certain things I'd like to get away with, but I can't anymore. It just goes down the line and, eventually, it falls on you."