Using some bureaucratic sleight of hand, the NYPD has issued written advice for cops on the new quota law passed by the state Legislature earlier this year.
While noting that quotas are illegal and denying that the department indulges in them or penalizes cops for not making them, a November 2010 Legal Bureau memo nonetheless says that it’s alright to punish cops for not producing as much as other officers.
Yes, we are currently scratching our collective heads.
The so-called quota law, passed by the state Legislature earlier this year, prohibits police departments from punishing an employee for failing to meet quotas for arrests, summonses, stop and frisks and traffic violations. That means that police supervisors can’t transfer, demote, fire, change a shift schedule or give a bad evaluation to an employee who doesn’t make his quota.
The memo insists that NYPD has “never” had quotas. Requiring cops to write a specific number of tickets over a specific period of time “has always been prohibited,” the memo says.
“The department does not train supervisors to set quotas as a measure of individual officer performance, nor has it ever condoned the taking of disciplinary action against an employee who fails to meet a quota,” the memo asserts.
Here we have to pause and say hmmm, because that position doesn’t square at all with what the Voice reported in its NYPD Tapes series. In recordings we obtained from Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft, there were numerous examples of the quota demand and threats of punishment for lack of productivity. The recordings make it clear that the pressure is coming from the upper levels of the department.
We quoted, for example, a lieutenant telling cops on June 12, 2008, “The XO [second-in-command] was in the other day. He actually laid down a number. He wants at least three seat belts, one cell phone, and 11 others. All right, so if I was on patrol, I would be sure to get three seat belts, one cell phone, and 11 others.
“Pick it up a lot, if you have to,” he says. “The CO gave me some names. I spoke to you.”
On October 28, 2008, the precinct commander tells officers he will change their shifts if they don’t make their numbers: “If I hear about disgruntled people moaning about getting thrown off their tours, it is what it is. Mess up, bring heat on the precinct–you know what, I’ll give you tough love, but it doesn’t mean you can’t work your way back into good graces and get back to the detail and platoon you want.”
He adds: “If you don’t work, and I get the same names back again, I’m moving you. You’re going to go to another platoon. I’m done. I don’t want to be embarrassed no more.”
On July 15, 2008, the precinct commander says, “I don’t want to see anyone get hurt. This job is all about hurting. Someone has to go. Step on a landmine, someone has to get hurt.”
On Jan. 28, 2009, the precinct commander relates how obsessively a high ranking chief is monitoring the numbers of summonses cops produce. The chief, he says, closely questioned him on the number of tickets the officers write, and warns them to make their numbers.
“He says, ‘How many superstars and how many losers do you have?’ ” Mauriello says. “And then he goes down and says, ‘How many summonses does your squad write?’ I want everyone to step up and be accountable and work. Don’t get caught out there.”
He then mentions a patrol borough chief who is apparently examining the “activity” of every cop in the 10 precincts he oversees. “If you don’t want to work, then, you know what, just do the old go-through-the-motions and get your numbers anyway,” he says. “He’s taking this very seriously, looking at everyone’s evaluations. And he’s yelling at every CO [commanding officer] about ‘Who gave this guy points?’ or ‘This girl’s no good.’ “
A sergeant then says the cops should be able to hit their numbers’ targets, and cites possible punishment for not hitting the numbers. “I told you guys last month: They are looking at these numbers, and people are going to get moved,” he says. “It ain’t about losing your job. They can make your job real uncomfortable, and we all know what that means.”
Back to the memo. Toward the end, the memo says, “An obvious way of gauging an officer’s activity is to count the number of enforcement encounters that an officer has over time,” the memo says.
Just because quotas are illegal doesn’t mean “that the number of enforcement encounters over time cannot be considered in evaluating officer performance,” the memo says.
Cops who don’t produce as much as other officers “can be given a lower rating on specific performance measures in an evaluation or be subjected to discipline, a transfer or a change of assignment in an appropriate case.”
So what does it all mean? It would seem that NYPD is trying to preserve its quota system while officially maintaining that it is abiding by the new law. You wonder how the NYPD rates the many officers who don’t have any patrol duties.
As for the effectiveness of the system of written evaluations, we had to recall the priceless statement in the Schoolcraft recordings by a lieutenant about the value of the evaluations. Basically, it’s a popularity contest, he says.
“Unfortunately, if we like you, you get a certain thing,” he says. “If we don’t like you, you get a certain thing, as opposed to what the performance standards of the–uh, you know–what the department requires. I have no time to change the entire department mind, unfortunately.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 6, 2010