Police Officer Pedro Serrano recorded his commanding officer in a Bronx precinct just last month bringing a racial component into his orders to perform more stop and frisks, according to testimony and audio played in day four of the landmark challenge to one of the NYPD’s signature strategies.
Meanwhile, recordings made by a second police officer, Adrian Schoolcraft, in the 81st Precinct in Bed-Stuy and first obtained by the Village Voice echoed inside the courtroom three years after they were made.
The remarkable exchange captured in February, 2013 by Serrano goes to the heart of plaintiff’s contention in Floyd v. City of New York that the vast rise in stop and frisks were racially biased. The city has countered that the number of stops correspond to crime trends.
The commander, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, makes the case that the 40th is a precinct beset by violent crime. As they talk, the NYPD’s obsession with quota numbers lingers in the background.
“We’re still one of the most violent commands in the city, and to stop two people, you know, to see only two things going on, that’s almost like you’re purposefully not doing your job at all,” he says.
The talk quickly turns to numbers: stop and frisks and quality of life summonses. “We need to do this,” McCormack says.
The inspector then instructs Serrano to stop “the right people, at the right time, at the right location.”
Serrano is puzzled. “Mott Haven is full of black and Hispanic people, so who are the right people?”
The inspector seems to get annoyed. “This is not, this is not…”
“So what am I supposed to do? Is it stop every black and Hispanic?” Serrano says. “I’m not going to do that. You want to do that. I’m not going to do that.”
“No, no, no, this is very important to understand,” the inspector says. “Because it’s the right people, the right time, the right location.”
“Mott Haven is full of black people, so who are the right people?” Serrano asks.
MacCormack: “The problem was male blacks, 14 to 20, 21.”
Serrano: “So what am I supposed to do? Male blacks 14 to 20 wearing dark clothing? What do you want me to do specifically?”
MacCormack: “Hold on, hold on, would you just do me a favor on take it down? Because this is becoming insubordination.”
Serrano: “All right.”
The dialogue ends with both men losing their temper. “You’re done, ok? This is over with. That’s it,” McCormack says.
Serrano, 43, married with four children, remains on full duty, though one wonders what the department will do to him now that he has rebuked his bosses. He testified yesterday that he filed a supposedly confidential complaint with Internal Affairs but his precinct commanders found out “almost immediately.”
The allegation is strikingly similar to claims made by Schoolcraft and Adhyl Polanco, who filed complaints with Internal Affairs over quota demands and retaliation in the 41st Precinct in Hunts Point.
Serrano, an 8-year veteran, testified that he had no problems until McCormack was appointed commander. Suddenly Serrano found himself on the hot seat. At one point, Serrano says his bosses put cops on forced overtime, and ordered them to get five stops, issue five C summonses, and do five vertical patrols in one tour. He began receiving assignments usually reserved for rookie cops.
And then, his evaluations got worse. He was called on the carpet for his “productivity” by a captain, who told him that 50 percent of his “grade” was based on his summons, arrest and stop and frisk numbers. He alleges that all of this was retaliation.
“I said specifically that’s a quota and that’s illegal,” he says. But the captain replied that she could do that, based on an order at the end of 2011 by Police Commissioner Kelly.
To Serrano, the order translated as “quota, quota, quota quota.”
And so he started taping and then made his complaint with Internal Affairs. “I’m a police officer and if I see something wrong, I have to say something. But I’m accusing someone of higher rank of telling me to do something that’s illegal. They won’t believe me unless I have evidence.”