By Araceli Cruz
By Tessa Stuart
By Anna Merlan
By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
Meanwhile, a former rookie police officer, 26-year-old Christopher Bienz, is telling the Voice about the quota pressure he faced when he joined the police department.
Bienz, of Smithtown, Long Island, says that when he graduated from the police academy, he was assigned to the 115th Precinct in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. He was sent to work a foot post on Roosevelt Avenue, and was expected to make low-level arrests and issue summonses to hit quotas.
"When I got there, they gave me my post and a map and threw us out there," he says. "I remember walking out and not having the slightest idea of where I was going."
His supervisors told him he was expected to make two arrests and issue 30 summonses a month. He was also expected to do eight stop-and-frisks a month: "You're constantly getting yelled at. They make you feel this big," he says.
Bienz, who comes from a family of cops and firefighters, says he came to believe that what he was ordered to do amounted to harassing regular working people. "I did not come on the job to lock up people for riding their bikes on the sidewalk," he says. "I'm not going to hassle a normal guy as long as he's not causing a problem, when there are other real crimes going on."
He started missing his quota, and his super-visors immediately started pressuring him.
At one point, after being called on the carpet for not writing enough summonses, he told his sergeant, "This isn't what I came on the job to do. I'm not going to make bullshit collars." The next day, he was chewed out by the precinct commander.
Bienz says he was also ordered not to take a criminal complaint from a victim. The man was drunk, and he was saying that he had been robbed of his wallet, credit cards, and cell phone. A police supervisor arrived at the scene and told Bienz, "We can't take reports from drunk guys—get rid of him. Tell him to call us in the morning."
Bienz says the precinct had a policy that if a victim did not want to return immediately to the stationhouse to speak with detectives, no report would be taken. Both Schoolcraft and Polanco say their precincts had a similar policy.
Like Polanco and Schoolcraft, Bienz says he was ordered to take arrests even when he didn't actually see the misconduct.
After eight months in the 115th Precinct, Bienz was transferred to the 114th Precinct in the Astoria section of Queens. There, he made a series of drunk driving arrests that earned him praise from his precinct commander.
One night, though, he was sent to Astoria General Hospital to guard a man who had been arrested on a gun charge after shooting himself in the foot, and he ran afoul of a captain who arrived to check on the prisoner.
The captain claimed that Bienz had been sleeping on duty, and issued him an official reprimand.
Bienz went on working at the 114th. Nearly six months after the reprimand, a precinct supervisor ordered him to surrender his gun and shield based on the captain's claims, which had somehow changed from sleeping on duty to insubordination.
Just before Bienz's probationary period expired, he was terminated. He had little recourse because rookie cops have no job protection. The NYPD did not have to give a specific reason for his firing. He could have been fired for any reason.
Bienz's father, Fred, a retired firefighter turned lawyer, tried to fight his son's firing. Suing for unemployment benefits for his son, he was able to find a nurse and the wounded prisoner, both of whom testified that Bienz was neither sleeping on duty nor insubordinate toward the captain. He also produced telephone records that showed his son got a heads up from a fellow officer before the captain arrived, and thus could not have been sleeping.
In an interview with the Voice, Fred Bienz accused the captain of either perjuring himself or filing a false report. He also alleges that someone altered official documents in his son's case.
"To this day, I honestly don't know why my son got terminated," Fred Bienz says. "I have documentation to substantiate the altered evaluation, the false report, and the forged termination letters, but nobody from the commissioner's office seems to care to address the issues. They refuse to speak to me about it despite the fact that I've made every effort to communicate with them."
Christopher Bienz is now working as a mechanic in a bowling alley and living at his parents' home. He would still like to work as a police officer, but his firing makes that unlikely.
"I'm living the dream," he says, sarcastically.
In addition to Polanco and Bienz, two more police officers have come forward to make similar allegations, Schoolcraft's lawyer, Jon Norinsberg, says. Norinsberg requested that the Voice withhold the names of the officers.
One of those officers is from the 81st Precinct, the same stationhouse where Schoolcraft worked, the lawyer says. He alleges that the precinct commander at the time, Steven Mauriello, was given a "heads up" that Internal Affairs was investigating Schoolcraft's allegations.