At times combative, the former commander of Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct testified yesterday in the stop-and-frisk class-action lawsuit that he never approved of quotas, even when confronted with recordings of him and his supervisors ordering officers to make certain numbers.
Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello testified after a second batch of the recordings, made by Officer Adrian Schoolcraft in 2008 and 2009, were played in court. The recordings were the basis for the Village Voice‘s 2010 “The NYPD Tapes” series.
Questioned by Jonathan Moore, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in Floyd v. City of New York, Mauriello, cutting a fine line, insisted he never ordered cops to hit a specific number, but there are what he called “productivity standards” and officers could be disciplined for failing to meet them. At other times, he insisted there was no punishment for failure to make the “goals.” “There are no quotas,” he said, adding, “We want activity. So it’s not about numbers. It’s about the officer working. If there is a crime happening, I expect him to make an arrest.”
Mauriello also testified he was never ordered to discipline any officer who had conducted an illegal stop-and-frisk, and the issue of whether stops were constitutional rarely came up.
Mauriello testified that he read the Voice‘s series, but that he never discussed findings in those articles with his superior, Deputy Chief Michael Marino. “No one ever discussed the article with me,” he testified.
He was transferred out of the 81st Precinct on July 3, 2010 in a phone call from the chief of patrol. The chief told him that the move to executive officer of Bronx and Queens transfer was a promotion, but Mauriello testified yesterday he saw it as a lateral move.
Mauriello also testified that at times, in order to increase the precinct’s numbers, he would order “teams” of officers to a certain area with a mandate to write tickets.
He was asked how many times he had listened to the Schoolcraft tapes, and he said, “Probably too many times.” But he claimed he was never actually questioned by the NYPD about any of the issues raised in the recordings, particularly whether there was any racial profiling. (Mauriello does face disciplinary charges for downgrading a crime report, but that case has been pending unresolved for more than two years.
He claimed he never felt pressure from his superiors to increase enforcement activity, even though he is heard on the recordings complaining about the pressure from borough command, particularly Chief Marino.
Mauriello denied any racial profiling, even though in the tapes he can be heard ordering cops to stop anyone in a bandanna.
In at least five of the recordings, 81st Precinct supervisors are heard issuing numerical demands. In one instance, a lieutenant says he wants three seat belts, one cellphone, and 11 other tickets. “This is news to me,” Mauriello testified. “There is no such thing as set numbers in the precinct.”
Mauriello talked at length about the challenge of policing an area with four rival public housing projects with fewer officers than he used to have. “So I have to come up with a plan how am I going to put cops in there when I don’t have 50 cops to put in like we used to have,” he said. “We had three very violent buildings that were at war with each other: Then we had Breevort houses, which is a half a block away, And all four locations didn’t like each other. And this goes back for years and years like the Hatfields and McCoys. There was violence.
“I had a mobile footpost and if nothing is going on, I would want them in the car with their lights on, directing patrol on the corner, where people walking home from the subway to go home. They were out there for omnipresence. The people in the community loved it. And also it kept the criminals, by moving the car back and forth with the lights on and going and getting out of the car, the criminals thought we had more personnel out there.”
After a recording picked up the lieutenant saying he wanted cops to do “a couple of 250s [stop-and-frisks],” Mauriello said the order came after a night in which five people were shot. “The crime went unsolved. There was 35 witnesses. No one stepped forward. So, again, the building was very nervous. The community was very nervous. I put officers out there to make sure they felt very good.”
After listening to a portion of the recordings in which a lieutenant tells cops that everyone in the neighborhood probably has a warrant out for their arrest, Mauriello defended himself, saying, “If you listen to all my tapes, I say 98 percent of the people in the community are hardworking people. It’s the two percent, the criminals my officers deal with. I say it on every tape.” He also denied the lieutenant’s statement amounted to racial stereotyping.
Meanwhile, Scheindlin scolded the city’s lawyer for failing to turn over updated stop and frisk figures in a timely manner to the plaintiffs, a tactic which she thought was unfair, and refused to allow the new figures into evidence.
“There is no fairness to that. I just don’t see the fairness,” Scheindln said from the bench. “It’s simple fairness. I know no way around that fairness problem now. So we have to just stop the data in June 2012 if we just don’t have those two quarters.
A city lawyer tried to interject: “With all due respect …”
But Scheindlin cut her off, saying, “‘With all due respect’ is not a helpful statement. It doesn’t mean anything. Skip that and get to the point. Because it’s not respectful. I just told you it lacks fairness. All I want is a fair trial. There are two new quarters of data. You knew about that March 1, for sure, the second of those two quarters. Why didn’t you come to the court say we have to talk to you?”