A Prime Case of NYPD Street Cops Ordered by Bosses to Play Down a Violent Robbery
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly, always quick in the past to boast that crime rates have dropped, aren't talking about those New Yorkers who have tried to report violent crime but were rebuffed by the police.
The scandal of NYPD bosses manipulating stats by telling street cops to downplay violent crimes is widening, as the Voice's ongoing "NYPD Tapes" series shows. And an NYPD sergeant implicated in the tapes has been indicted as the department has been forced to investigate.
Read on for the story of 27-year-old office temp and writer Timothy Covell of Brooklyn, who was beaten and robbed in 2008 but whose report of the violent crime was recorded by a sergeant in Bedford-Stuyvesant's 81st Precinct as an incident that wasn't even a crime of any sort.
On October 23, 2008, Covell was jumped by three to four youths, punched and kicked, and robbed of his wallet and cell phone, according to his written account of the incident. The attack left him with a bloody nose, bloodied wrists, and blood soaking through the back of his white t-shirt.
He went home and contacted the police. Two officers arrived and took his statement. He told them that he could not immediately identify his attackers but that there were witnesses at a bodega where the assault took place. The officers asked him if he wanted a ride to hospital. He declined, he says, because he did not have health insurance.
Covell says he told the cops that he didn't think he could identify his attackers because it was dark and he didn't get a good look at them. The officers left. Twenty minutes later, one of the officers told him that since he could not identify his attackers, a sergeant at the 81st Precinct had classified the incident as "lost property," which is not even a crime.
According to Covell, the cop apologized, saying, "I know this sucks." But that was that.
Thus, what was clearly a violent and terrifying assault and robbery became a minor incident. As a matter of fact, there's nothing in the NYPD patrol guide saying that if a victim cannot identify his attackers, then a robbery should be counted as "lost property."
At that point, Covell got a call from Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who, as the Voice has reported, secretly recorded supervisors in the 81st Precinct. Schoolcraft was curious about what happened to Covell's complaint.
"When he called, I was a little suspicious," Covell says. "I was concerned. Who is this cop? What's he up to? But once I met him, I found him to be a genuine individual and a good-hearted person."
Covell supplied Schoolcraft with a detailed two-page letter describing the violent robbery, and the police handling of the incident.
On October 7, 2009, Schoolcraft turned over that evidence along with documentation of other downgraded crime complaints to investigators with the NYPD unit which audits crime statistics.
Covell tells the Voice that investigators contacted him about two weeks later to verify the contents of the letter. They spoke with him for about half an hour.
"I always suspected it was a broader problem," Covell says. "No one seemed to have a problem lying in my case. This wasn't a one-time thing."
On October 31, 2009, Schoolcraft, as Voice readers know, was dragged from his apartment in handcuffs and placed in the mental ward at Jamaica Hospital. The NYPD has since attempted to smear Schoolcraft as mentally unbalanced.
Covell says that's ridiculous. "Talk to him for a few minutes, and you'll see that he's not crazy," Covell says. "He's just trying to do something good. If he comes off as eccentric, it's just because he's passionate about this, and he's up against some daunting odds. His whole life has been uprooted and changed because of this."
The question remains: Did Covell's attackers rob and beat anyone else after they attacked him? If they did, the NYPD would bear some responsibility for not having pursued the Covell incident as a violent crime.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.