Some interesting backstory on the debate over NYPD quotas.
In a July 2 letter obtained by the Voice, Mayor Bloomberg pleaded with Governor Paterson to veto a bill that broadened a ban on the use of quotas by Police Departments, and sought to prevent the NYPD from tying them to disciplinary action like transfers or shift changes.
The fascinating thing about this letter is that despite years of denials by the Police Department of the existence of quotas, Bloomberg all but admits that they indeed exist, and not just for tickets, but for arrests and, most controversially, for stop-and-frisks.
“The law defines a quota as a ‘specific number of tickets…which are required to be issued within a specified period of time,'” Bloomberg writes. “The city finds the present law contrary to the effective management of public resources, and opposes in the strongest terms any expansion of this provision to include summonses or arrest activity for violation of any law or stops for suspected criminal activity.”
The admission that there are quotas for stop-and-frisks is controversial because the practice is supposed to be done when an officer believes a crime has or is about to take place. In other words, they are supposed to be tied to conditions in the field, not some artificial number coming from police headquarters.
“If that’s not a smoking gun, I don’t know what is,” says Joshua Fitch, a lawyer suing the city over its quota system on behalf of 23 New Yorkers, who claim they got tickets simply because an officer was trying to make his quota
Bloomberg goes on to compare public sector quotas with private sector management goals. “For an employee whose function it is to issue parking tickets, a measurement clearly relevant to job performance is the number of summonses issued over the course of a reasonable period of time,” he writes.
He closes by saying that the law could cause traffic and crime problems to increase. “By second-guessing the management of public safety agencies in their ability to measure arrest productivity and stop, question and frisk activity, the Legislature could cause fewer criminal arrests and summonses, more quality of life violations, more criminal activity, and actual injury to innocent victims,” he writes.
Paterson, though, snubbed Bloomberg and allowed the bill to become law.
At the end of August, Susan Petito, a senior NYPD lawyer, sent a memo to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and other high ranking department officials, titled “Enactment of Quota Bill.” That memo was also obtained by the Voice.
“We have confirmed, contrary to expectation, the Governor failed to veto a bill which the city and the department had strenuously opposed,” Petito wrote.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2010