By Gavin Aronsen
All five Democratic attorney general hopefuls praised Voice staff writer Graham Rayman’s continuing “NYPD Tapes” series about police abuses when they debated Thursday night at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.
The exposé has revealed that brass in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s 81st Precinct encouraged officers to ignore crime complaints to manipulate statistics. That was the subject of the debate’s fifth question.
Candidate Eric Dinallo, who established an impressive résumé working under former Governor Eliot Spitzer, deemed the Voice series — consisting of four main parts so far, plus numerous other follow-ups by Rayman — “shocking, eye-opening, saddening, all at the same time.”
Dinallo cast into doubt the constitutionality of the “systematic approach” to stop-and-frisk searches — a much-discussed means of achieving quotas – and called for a renewed commitment to enforcing a state statute against the stops.
“I’m very, very disturbed by what was reported in the Village Voice,” said candidate Sean Coffey, an attorney. He agreed with his rivals that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk database, which captures data on the innocent, was troubling, but he said, as did Dinallo, that the searches themselves could be appropriate if done constitutionally. Today, the Daily News reported that Governor David Paterson plans to sign a bill to end use of the database.
Candidate Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County D.A., said that “we should all be ashamed” of what the Voice exposed, including its discovery that superior officers intensely pressured their rank-and-file to meet quotas at the same time they ignored victims’ complaints. “Resources aren’t going where they’re needed when false numbers are being reported,” she said as she promoted the “power of community partnerships” to help restore the lost trust.
Schneiderman praised Officer Adrian Schoolcraft for his whistle-blowing audio tapes, which formed the heart of Rayman’s initial stories. “This is fraud,” Schneiderman said, referring to the NYPD’s manipulated statistics. He called for “random audits of police departments” to fight dishonesty like that unveiled by Schoolcraft’s extensive recordings.
Coffey, who playfully jostled with Assemblyman Richard Brodsky for center stage throughout the evening, quipped about the controversial 81st Precinct: “If you find one cockroach, it’s probably not the only one.”
Brodsky called the NYC stop-and-frisk abuses “institutional racism.” He also criticized Rice for Nassau County’s use of “electronic stop-and-frisk programs,” which store information gathered from photographs of license plates in a database.
Later, Schneiderman brought up the Voice again in reference to apartment rental abuses, lamenting that our paper no longer runs its longstanding “Ten Worst Landlords” list. We are happy to inform him that the list does, in fact, still run: It was last published in two parts this past March (Part 1, Part 2).