By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
At the same time NYPD whistleblower Adrian Schoolcraft was secretly recording his supervisors in a Brooklyn precinct, an officer named Adil Polanco was doing the same thing a borough away in the Bronx.
Polanco, short in stature and a native of the Dominican Republic, and Schoolcraft, a native of Texas, come from different backgrounds, but they have a lot in common, particularly the belief that the NYPD's obsession with numbers distorts a police officer's job. Polanco, who was also making recordings to document what he saw as wrongdoing in his precinct, tells the Voice that many of the same things that Schoolcraft observed in Brooklyn's 81st Precinct were also taking place in the 41st Precinct in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. He claims that supervisors constantly harangued cops to hit quotas for arrests, summonses, and stop-and-frisks, even when it meant harassing innocent civilians who were doing nothing wrong.
He claims that supervisors ordered officers to downgrade crime complaints and refuse to take complaints from civilians in order to manipulate crime statistics.
"It happened all the time," he says. "The reason was CompStat. They know what they are going to be asked for in CompStat, and they have to have a lower number—but not too low."
Polanco even has a recording of quota pressure coming from an unlikely source: a police union delegate.
The Schoolcraft story was told in a four-part Voice series that began on May 5 ("The NYPD Tapes: Inside Bed-Stuy's 81st Precinct"). The series was based on digital recordings made by Schoolcraft of 117 roll calls in the Brooklyn stationhouse, which offered an unprecedented look inside the operations of a police precinct, and sparked a range of investigations and other events in the period since the articles ran.The revelations in the series have led so far to the transfer of the 81st Precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, to Bronx transit, and the NYPD has also opened an internal investigation into his conduct. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly replaced him with Inspector Juanita Holmes, one of the few African-American female supervisors in the NYPD. Mauriello's transfer came after demands for his ouster from local elected officials, clergy, and community groups. In a May 26 letter to Kelly obtained by the Voice calling for Mauriello's ouster, the pols, referring to the contents of the Schoolcraft tapes, wrote, "Not only did officers treat our community as if it were the subject of a military occupation, but they also were dismissive of criminal complaints made by residents." Kelly finally responded nine days later, on June 4, with a curt note, acknowledging the letter and saying he had ordered a review and analysis of the "assertions" made in their letter. (In the intervening period, Kelly and City Councilman Al Vann had a tense exchange in a Council budget hearing over Kelly's failure to respond to the initial letter.) On June 22, the pols were joined by three local church pastors in a follow-up letter to Kelly, which mildly criticized him for his limited response, and asked for a face-to-face meeting. "We believe that residents can no longer trust the precinct to protect and serve them in its current leadership," they wrote. Vann also issued an open letter in June describing Mauriello's conduct as "inappropriate, disrespectful, and perhaps even illegal. . . . The question is why hasn't he already been removed," he wrote. Mauriello was transferred on the Friday before the July Fourth weekend. Kelly also met with clergy and appointed a special liaison from his office to communicate with Bed-Stuy leaders. But the reaction to the series exposed cracks in the relationship between Kelly and ministers in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, chiefly over civil rights issues and community resentment at the stop-and-frisk campaign, described in part 2 of the series ("Bed-Stuy Cops Ordered: Turn This Place Into a Ghost Town," May 12). In an interview last week, Councilman Vann told the Voice he's satisfied that Kelly removed Mauriello, but he thinks there are broader issues that go beyond the 81st Precinct: "I think it's systemic," he said. Vann called on the City Council to hold hearings on the issues raised in the Voice series. He and other elected officials were scheduled to meet last week with Kelly and Chief of Brooklyn North Gerald Nelson. He also said that two of Brooklyn's congressional representatives are examining whether to ask the United States Attorney General to investigate. Meanwhile, he says, several state elected officials from Brooklyn are looking into new legislation to limit the stop-and-frisk policy. "We think stop-and-frisk should be modified," he says. A second departmental probe is said to be under way involving Deputy Chief Michael Marino's October 31, 2009, order to forcibly handcuff Schoolcraft and transport him against his will to the psychiatric ward at Jamaica Hospital ("NYPD Tapes 4: The Whistleblower," June 16). That decision, a police source says, was "out at the edge of the universe of acceptable orders." Marino still has an open disciplinary case after he admitted to buying a steroid cream from a Brooklyn pharmacy under investigation for steroids distribution. A departmental trial was held last September, and both sides are awaiting a judge's ruling, Marino's lawyer tells the Voice.