Citizens Crime Commission President Richard Aborn and police union president Patrick Lynch offered their takes this afternoon on the newest of the “NYPD Tapes,” which reveal precinct commanders threatening to penalize officers who don’t hit their quotas.
“My belief is that quotas are not good because they can end up causing officers to make decisions they would not otherwise make,” says Aborn, a former prosecutor and candidate for Manhattan District Attorney. “It’s perfectly fine for a police department to encourage activity, but when you set a quota people are going to feel compelled to make that quota, and that’s where bad decisions can be made.”
Aborn also repeated his call for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to make public its internal audits of the NYPD crime statistics. The Voice and the Daily News have published articles this year containing allegations from police officers that the downgrading of crime complaints is a significant problem in the department.
“Nothing will douse the brushfire of suspicion faster than some transparency,” Aborn says. “Since the department already does these audits, and verifies the numbers, I think it would help the NYPD to release the audits.”
Coming on the heels of the Village Voice’s NYPD Tapes series, the new tapes were recorded in April and May 2010 by a high-ranking supervisor assigned to Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct–the same precinct where Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft made his recordings in 2008 and 2009. The new recordings, excerpted today in the Village Voice and the New York Times, reveal what precinct commanders are telling lieutenants and sergeants to tell the rank-and-file.
The recordings were made after Schoolcraft had been forced out of the precinct, and questions began to surface about how the station house was run.
“What happens is I’m going to shake it up,” the precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, tells his lieutenants and sergeants in one meeting.
“So now — I will say right now — it’s not good to be a boss right now if your squad ain’t pulling weight,” he adds. “Your squad ain’t pulling weight, that ain’t good.”
Captain Alex Perez goes on to specify the number of summonses required from each shift of officers, saying the number has been established at the borough command.
“They are counting seat belts and cell phone, double parkers and bus stops,” he says. “If the day tours contributed with five seat belts and five cell phones a week, five double parkers and five bus stops a week, okay.
“If I get the same numbers from the third platoon and whatever the midnight kicks in, it’s gravy,” he adds. “You as the bosses have to demand this, and you have to count it. Your goal is five in each of these categories…I’m not looking to break records here, but there is no reason we should be missing this number by 30 a week. That’s what your job is as bosses.”
Perez then tells his sergeants and lieutenants that he had little problem punishing officers who do not “pull their weight.” He tells them he’s transferring three officers from days to the midnight tour.
“I don’t care about people’s families,” he says. “If they don’t want to do their job, their paycheck is taking care of their family. If they don’t realize that, they’re going to change their tour, they are going to start being productive if they want a tour that works for their family.”
In a written statement, Kelly’s spokesman Paul Browne denied that a “quota” was talked about on the tapes. “There’s no quotas discussed,” he says.
“It’s absurd to think that managers can’t establish goals that require minimum productivity,” he added. “To suggest otherwise would mean no recourse but to let slackers do nothing.”
But Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, begged to differ. “From what I’ve seen reported about those tape recordings, to my ears, it sounds like a quota,” he said in a statement.
The PBA recently got a boost from the state Legislature which passed a law that gives the union the right to file grievances when an officer is punished for failing to meet a quota.
“What separates a managerial target from an illegal quota is the punitive action for failure to achieve that number,” Lynch said.
In his statement, Browne picked out an error in the Times piece. The Grey Lady reported that a captain in the 81st Precinct demanded “each officer on a day tour should write 20 summonses a week.” The tape indicates that the captain wanted 20 summonses per week per shift, not per officer.
“Clearly, the Times confused what was being said on the tape in terms of numbers,” Browne wrote. “In no case is anyone demanding police take action on nonexistent conditions.”