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So officers get marching orders like the following, which was recorded October 4: "If it's a little old lady, and I got my bag stolen, then she's probably telling the truth, all right?" Sergeant D. says. "If it's some young guy who looks strong and healthy and can maybe defend himself, and he got yoked up, and he's not injured, he's perfectly fine—question that. It's not about squashing numbers. You all know if it is what it is—if it smells like a rotten fish—then that's what it is. But question it. On the burglaries as well."
LAST OCTOBER 11, TWO PATROL officers made a terrible mistake: They took a robbery complaint. A man reported that some suspects had forcibly taken his cell phone, but the victim didn't want to immediately accompany officers to the precinct to talk to the detective squad. The victim, the tapes show, told the officers he didn't want to go back with them because he didn't want to be seen getting into a marked police car.
The next day, Mauriello took out his anger on what the officers had done on their sergeant, the tapes show. And she, in turn, took it out on the officers.
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.
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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."
"OK, so he [Mauriello] was flippin' on me yesterday because they wrote a 61, and the guy talking about he not coming in to speak to nobody," says a Sergeant G. in the October 12 roll call. "He don't want nobody see him getting in the car."
While one of the core duties of a police officer is to take crime complaints, the 81st Precinct had a controversial policy that held that if a victim refused to come to the stationhouse and speak to the detective squad, officers should refuse to take the complaint.
"You know, we be popping up with these robberies out of nowhere, or whatever," Sergeant G. tells her officers in the roll call. "If the complainant does not want to go back and speak to the squad, then there is no 61 taken. That's it. They have to go back and speak to the squad."
In effect, under this policy, a robbery complaint would be rejected if the victim was unable to come to the stationhouse. It didn't matter if a victim was unable to come down because he or she had to work or take care of kids. Perhaps not coincidentally, that would also be one less robbery to count against the precinct's crime statistics.
The sergeant went on to suggest that the victim was lying: "How do we know this guy really got robbed?" she asked. "He said he had no description. Sometimes they just want a complaint number—you know what I'm saying?—so if he don't wanna come back and talk to the squad, then that's it."
This policy was mentioned repeatedly starting last August. The sergeant repeated the directive on October 24. "If the complainant says, 'I don't want to go to the squad, I don't want to go to the squad,' then there's no 61, right?" she says. "We not going to take it, and then they say they're going to come in later on, and then the squad speaks to them and usually they don't want to come in."
She repeats the admonition again on October 27, and this time, a Lieutenant K. adds, "Don't take that report. That's it. It's over."
There's no reference to this policy in the NYPD Patrol Guide, the department bible of practices and procedures.
Retired detectives tell the Voice that the practice is highly questionable: "I've never heard of something like that," says Greg Modica, who retired in 2002 as a Detective First Grade after 20 years with the Manhattan Robbery Squad. "And I don't think the commissioner would care for it. If the complainant couldn't come in on the spot, patrol would take the complaint, turn it over to us, and we'd follow up.
"If the victim can't come in for some reason—maybe they have a babysitter at home or they have to work—you take the report and tell them the detectives will make an appointment to see them," he adds.
Modica and other ex-detectives say it simply isn't patrol's job to determine whether or not a victim is lying. Their job is merely to take the report and turn it over to the detective squad.
"You might get a feeling on the street, but that doesn't mean you don't take it," he says. "It's the detective's job to determine that. And anyway, [a false report] didn't happen that many times. Robbery is a very serious crime."
ALL OF WHICH BRINGS UP something known as a "callback"—which occurs when an officer or a detective makes a follow-up call to a crime victim, usually when he needs another piece of information or has to check his information. That's the traditional definition.
In the 81st Precinct, it meant something substantially different, Schoolcraft says. It meant calling a crime victim and questioning them closely on the details of their complaint with an eye toward downgrading it or scrapping it.
"It's, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' " Schoolcraft says, describing the practice. "Sometimes, it's, 'Have you ever been arrested?' or 'We're going to know if you're lying or not.' "