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In the years since New York Police Department Officer Adrian Schoolcraft emerged with secretly recorded evidence of misconduct in a Brooklyn precinct, other cops have been inspired to follow in his footsteps, capturing their commanders pressuring them to hit illegal quotas.
The NYPD has long denied that it's compelled officers to reach certain figures for arrests, stop-and-frisks, and summonses. But the recordings proved that officers faced the threat of bad assignments, transfers, or other punishment if they didn't make their numbers.
Schoolcraft's tapes played in dramatic fashion in the recent landmark stop-and-frisk trial, which could lead to a federal monitor overseeing the NYPD. Two Bronx officers also made similar recordings, as did an unnamed supervisor, who caught his bosses profanely complaining about cops who didn't make their quotas.
Now comes patrolman Clifford Rigaud, an 11-year veteran who secretly taped his commander in South Jamaica's 103rd Precinct pressuring him to write 15 summonses a month.
Like Schoolcraft, Rigaud claims he was a hard-working officer. He once ran into a burning building on Hillside Avenue to make sure the tenants were out, and earned a commendation for intervening in an armed robbery.
Rigaud claims that when he resisted quota pressure, his bosses began to squeeze him, using a series of administrative rules and unwritten tactics. He was fired last week after he filed a lawsuit and a series of complaints charging supervisors with discrimination. To Rigaud, it looked like the ultimate retaliation.
"I tried to go through the chain of command instead of talking to the media, because I have five children to support, but that did not work out at all," he says. "This department will come after you for everything they got. Schoolcraft's fear of the NYPD is correct, and even worse than he thinks."
Rigaud's lawyer, Stephen Drummond, says the department offered paper-thin justification to get rid of a veteran officer. Rigaud was fired for not showing up for psychiatric evaluation during his suspension—though officers are routinely allowed to tend to such issues after they return to work.
The speed of his removal seemed suspect, since Police Commissioner Ray Kelly habitually takes months, even years, to decide the fate of cops accused of much greater offenses like fraud, drug trafficking, or the beating of suspects. "Here again we see Rigaud being treated differently," Drummond says.
Police spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to repeated interview requests.
Rigaud graduated from the academy in 2002. He partnered for years with Officer Michelle Alexander, who recently retired.
"He was well-liked on the street by the people in the community," Alexander says. "He didn't take shortcuts. If you needed to be stop and searched, you were, but if you didn't do anything, you weren't. He used his discretion, but the bosses were only interested in numbers, and that's where he would bump heads with them."
When Rigaud arrived at the 103rd at the end of 2005, he soon ran afoul of Lieutenant Jason Margolis, his tour commander.
Rigaud claims his bosses retaliated against him for low quota numbers by assigning him to public pool duty, forcing him to work alone on foot patrol in dangerous neighborhoods, and yanking him to provide extra security in tourist areas like Times Square.
At one point, he was ordered to return early from vacationing in Florida to work security at One Police Plaza, which has its own full-time security unit. And after the Haitian-American Rigaud volunteered to assist in the aftermath of a major earthquake in Haiti in 2010, he was told by one of his bosses, "You know how Haitians are, they're going to shoot each other," according to his lawsuit.
Rigaud, a Muslim, was also criticized for growing a beard, which he thought would make it easier for him to interact with the Muslim community. He claims he was ordered to shave and told, "I hope you don't plan to blow up anything."
At the end of 2009, Rigaud's sergeant had given him a 4.0 out of 5 on his evaluation, but Margolis overruled the score, pushing it down to a 3.0. The sergeant was upset and gave Rigaud a copy of the higher evaluation, later saying that she "had no problems with his arrest activity."
A few months later, he got into an argument with Margolis, a spat common to any precinct. But the department demanded that Rigaud see a psychiatrist.
In March 2010, it came to a head. With a digital recorder rolling, Rigaud met with precinct Commander Charles McEvoy. The ensuing conversation—despite the NYPD's claims to the contrary—showed how quotas still dominated the force's day-to-day activities.
Rigaud argued that Margolis' lower evaluation was retaliatory and unfair, since he was responding to a lot of calls that didn't necessarily end in arrests. "Me and him have been having issues since the day I got here," says Rigaud on the tape. "That's not what I deserve.
"I deserve a 4.0 because of the work I put in. Look at the amount of jobs I carry. Look at the summonses I put in. Something's totally wrong. I go from a 4.0 to a 3.0? Come on. That's pure retaliation."
"If you feel that way, Cliff, you're certainly entitled to feel that way, " McEvoy responds.
"Yes, I do feel that way," says Rigaud,
McEvoy makes it clear that numbers are everything in the NYPD. "In the police department in 2010, a lot of what you're evaluated on is by an activity by numbers," he says. "I always tell them personally everything's all about numbers, numbers, numbers."
He upbraids Rigaud for having no stop-and-frisks and just two arrests for the year, though Rigaud was assigned to long stretches of security and paperwork duty where arrests are rare. "What I look for in a month is one collar a month," he says.
McEvoy claims he's not establishing quotas, and then does so anyway. "I don't really put a number on things. But if the number citywide and in the precinct is 15 summonses, then 15 summonses," he says.
He goes on to say he wants an arrest a month, noting that this has been a requirement throughout his 20-year career. "Let's say it was the rule."
In the end, McEvoy sided with Margolis' evaluation.
As for Rigaud, he's looking at years of litigation, when he would rather be patrolling the streets. "It's been nothing but a nightmare," he says.