The 2010 Village Voice series, “The NYPD Tapes,” has won the New York Press Club’s Gold Keyboard award for outstanding enterprise or investigative reporting. The Gold Keyboard is the top honor the press club gives each year.
The series kicked off in May last year and was written by staff writer Graham Rayman. (Go here to see Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5, and blog updates.) It offered an unprecedented view inside a typical police precinct, and exposed the downgrading of crime, orders that led to possible civil rights violations, and the constant pressuring of officers to make quotas for arrests, summonses, and stop-and-frisks. The series also disclosed how a serial rapist in Washington Heights was allowed to get away for months with his crimes because the complaints were downgraded to misdemeanors.
The series was based on digital recordings made in secret by Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft in the 81st Precinct in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Schoolcraft wore a digital recorder for two years in the precinct, with the intent of documenting things he thought needed to be changed.
In October, 2009, Just three weeks after Schoolcraft met for three hours with department investigators, police came to his home and forcibly took him to the psychiatric ward at Jamaica Hospital where he was held against his will for six days, and then released without explanation.
The Voice has reported that police gave the hospital false or misleading information about his behavior that night which led them to agree to hold him for observation.
In the wake of the series, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly transferred and administratively charged the precinct commander, and two sergeants and two police officers with manipulating a complaint report. He also transferred a chief in Patrol Borough Brooklyn North. In addition, Kelly revamped the way sex crimes are investigated, after the Voice reported on complaints from rape victim advocates.
Schoolcraft remains in limbo, officially under suspension without pay. He has filed a lawsuit claiming that the department retaliated against him.
The New York Press Club tells us that Rayman won out over an impressive field. “This year’s field was especially strong — comprising 19 other entries. Finalists included investigative pieces by writers for Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Fortune Magazine.”