By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"I'm getting rocked today," Mauriello says on another day. "Since the midnight [shift], I've got five fucking robberies already and burglary assaults. So the game plan tonight is Operation Zero Tolerance. If they fuckin' break the law on the corner, I'm scooping them all up, putting them in the cells."
In the roll call on Halloween night 2008, Mauriello ordered the troops to pay special attention to 120 Chauncey. "Everybody goes. I don't care. You're on 120 Chauncey and they're popping champagne? Yoke 'em. Put them through the system. They got bandannas on, arrest them. Everybody goes tonight. They're underage? Fuck it."
He added: "You're on a foot post, fuck it. Take the first guy you got and lock them all up from 120 Chauncey. Boom. Bring 'em in. Lodge them. You're going to go back out and process it later on."
Later in the roll call, a lieutenant adds, "Jump out, ground-and-pound, 'cuff 'em up, and hand 'em off to somebody."
As the campaign went on into the winter of 2008, Mauriello seemed to be aware that there was some resentment in the community, but he justified the campaign by saying the "good people" were supportive.
"Fuck 'em, I don't give a shit," he says on November 8, 2008. "They are going to come to a community council meeting, yell at me, whatever, I know the good people over there are happy we have officers there."
A lieutenant follows up, telling the cops to be more aggressive. "If they don't move, they are going to get out of control and think that they own the block. They don't own the block. We own the block. They might live there, but we own the block. We own the streets here."
A similar order was given by a sergeant on November 23, 2008: "If they're on a corner, make 'em move. If they don't want to move, lock 'em up. Done deal. You can always articulate [a charge] later."
On December 9, 2008, Mauriello orders the officers to focus on a pizzeria. "No one hangs out there. Nobody. I want a ghost town. I want to hear the echo from one end of the street to the other. . . . That's your mission."
On March 13, 2009, a sergeant says, "Make 'em move. If they won't move, call me up, and lock them up, discon [disorderly conduct], no big deal. Leave them out there all night and come get them. The less people on the street, the easier our job will be."
On April 27, 2009, Mauriello tells officers to make the arrest, drop suspects at the precinct, go back out, and then come back later to process the arrests. "You bring 'em in here, leave 'em in the cells for a little while, go back out, do your job, and come back and release them outta there," he says. "If they're acting like assholes on the street, why should I rush them out of here?"
On July 21, 2009, Mauriello once again talks about destroying a troubled building: "I'm gonna burn that motherfucking place down. . . . Listen, let them shoot each other and we'll go clean up."
Judging by what superior officers say on the tapes, the rank-and-file cops weren't entirely happy with the policy of mass arrests.
"I know you don't want to take these shitty collars, but you can't let the CO [commanding officer] go over the air and no one answers the radio," a lieutenant tells the officers on February 27, 2009. "It's disrespectful and also could be a safety factor. . . . Unfortunately, he likes to work the majority of our tour because it's the busiest so you gotta do what you gotta do."
On March 28, 2009, a day after five robberies, a sergeant reminds officers that if Mauriello calls, they have to go to the scene and arrest people. "If you don't want the collar, too bad," a sergeant says. "If he calls for a car, somebody's gotta go. That's the way it is."
One problem with the "Mauriello Specials" was that the officers were at times being ordered to make arrests for misconduct that they hadn't actually witnessed—legally, a questionable practice.
In an October 14, 2009, roll call, a police union delegate warns officers about this: "Make sure you don't sign anything that says you witnessed the arrest if you didn't," he says. "There's been a lot of cases overturned, and officers now being brought up on perjury charges."
In another roll call from October 31, 2009, an officer warns other officers: "The D.A.'s Office is watching supporting depositions. They have one cop up on, like, eight counts of forging."
The larger problem with the precinct's strategy, however, was that it seemed to stretch the legal definition of the "probable cause" standard. Police officers need to witness illegal conduct to justify placing someone in handcuffs and detaining them for hours. An arrest without a clear justification under the penal code is illegal.
Grabbing someone for "blocking the sidewalk," for example, requires that the person actually block the sidewalk—not just stand on it.
Instead, officers were being asked to arrest citizens after having witnessed them doing nothing more than standing around, just to let them go a few hours later with no charges filed.