The Quota Machine: An Excerpt From The NYPD Tapes

A lieutenant was talking about how the top bosses were pressuring the precinct commander, who was pressuring his supervisors, who then had to pressure the cops.

"Unfortunately, at this level in your career, you're on the lowest level, so you're going to get some orders that you may not like," the lieutenant announced during roll call. "You're gonna get instructions. You're gonna get disciplinary action. You gotta just pick up your work. I don't wanna get my ass chewed out, in straight words. I'm sick of getting yelled at."

The threat was clear: Get your numbers or get punished. Though the NYPD stubbornly denied the existence of quotas, these remarks made by a typical lieutenant in a typical precinct seem to bear out what was really happening. Officer Adrian Schoolcraft felt these words were directed at him.


Excerpted from The NYPD Tapes by Graham A. Rayman. Copyright © 2013 by the author and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

On February 3, 2009, he was written up for arriving 47 minutes late to court and for improperly wearing jeans and sneakers. One of the ways the NYPD controlled its officers was by adhering to dozens of tiny rules about appearance in the Patrol Guide. An inspections unit spent all of its time roaming the precincts, looking for minor violations and handing out command discipline (CD).

"Inspections," a sergeant said with evident disgust. "They pull you over like a perp and you know it's disrespectful to us, but this is what they're doing. So inspections is not really our friend. Let's leave it at that."

One day, a sergeant spent an entire roll call criticizing his officers for not having whistle holders for their whistles. "That's unacceptable," he bellowed. "When I fall down the mine shaft, I'm the only one that's going to be able to call for help. The rest of you are going to have to fire off your gun, and they'll give you a CD for that."

On February 20, Schoolcraft was called to meet with Lieutenant Rafael Mascol to arrange a hearing with the precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, about his decision to appeal his recent low-performance evaluation. Schoolcraft hadn't been meeting his quotas.

Mascol talked about the reality behind the evaluation system, which rated officers from a low of 1 to a high of 5.

"If anybody read the standards of what a 5 is, nobody could ever get it . . . because most police officers are just basically meeting standards. They are basically doing what they are told to do. Very few police officers are actually going above and beyond the recommended minimum of competence, you know? Those get a 4. For the most part, most police officers are just meeting standards."

Mascol then sang along with a line from a song on his radio, "I can't get enough of your love," and added, "Unfortunately, if we like you, you get a certain thing. If we don't like you, you get a certain thing as opposed to what the department requires in the performance standards. I have no time to change the entire department mind, unfortunately."

Schoolcraft listened quietly, his tape recorder running. Mascol told him he needed to "improve his activity."

"How do I improve it?" Schoolcraft asked.

"Maybe answer more radio runs, do more summonses, might write some more reports and stuff, be more proactive out there," Mascol replied. "If you have trouble seeing activity, maybe we can put you with an officer with high activity who could point it out to you."

Mascol's message was clear: Go along with the program.

Schoolcraft's memo book provides a clipped sense of what he was doing at the time. On February 22, 2009, he started at 3 p.m., spending the next eight hours babysitting a prisoner at Brooklyn Central Booking. He then returned to the precinct and was ordered to take overtime and sent to man the SkyWatch tower at Gates and Garvey. At 2:30 a.m., nearly 12 hours after he started his shift, he wrote that he had been "released from forced OT."

Three days later, he was called to meet with Mauriello about appealing his evaluation. The appeal had been referred to Deputy Chief Michael Marino for assessment.

Schoolcraft and PBA delegate, Raymond Gonzalez went to Mauriello's office. Eventually six bosses joined them: Captain Theodore Lauterborn, Lieutenant Jean Delafuente, Lieutenant Rafael Mascol, Sergeant Raymond Stukes, and Sergeant Steven Weiss. Most of the meeting was taken up by the bosses trying to get Schoolcraft to agree to raise his activity and wondering why he had become inactive. Schoolcraft stubbornly resisted.

"What's the standard?" Schoolcraft asked.

"If you're out there on the street, we gotta see something," Mauriello said. "I'm not here to hurt anybody. . . . The days of 10,000 extra cops are gone. We're bare bones. They want everybody to get in the game."

"I'm contesting that I'm seeing something and not doing anything," Schoolcraft said. "I've taken action on anything I've observed, whether a summons, an arrest, or a warn and admonish."

"The last thing he wants is this to go to Marino," another boss said. "You're likely to get kicked out of the command and work in another shithole."

"No one here is looking to hurt you," Mauriello said. "The people in the community want active cops. Our job is to make sure Bed-Stuy is safe."

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