A lieutenant was talking about how the top bosses were pressuring the precinct commander, who was pressuring his supervisors, who then had to pressure the cops.
“Unfortunately, at this level in your career, you’re on the lowest level, so you’re going to get some orders that you may not like,” the lieutenant announced during roll call. “You’re gonna get instructions. You’re gonna get disciplinary action. You gotta just pick up your work. I don’t wanna get my ass chewed out, in straight words. I’m sick of getting yelled at.”
The threat was clear: Get your numbers or get punished. Though the NYPD stubbornly denied the existence of quotas, these remarks made by a typical lieutenant in a typical precinct seem to bear out what was really happening. Officer Adrian Schoolcraft felt these words were directed at him.
On February 3, 2009, he was written up for arriving 47 minutes late to court and for improperly wearing jeans and sneakers. One of the ways the NYPD controlled its officers was by adhering to dozens of tiny rules about appearance in the Patrol Guide. An inspections unit spent all of its time roaming the precincts, looking for minor violations and handing out command discipline (CD).
“Inspections,” a sergeant said with evident disgust. “They pull you over like a perp and you know it’s disrespectful to us, but this is what they’re doing. So inspections is not really our friend. Let’s leave it at that.”
One day, a sergeant spent an entire roll call criticizing his officers for not having whistle holders for their whistles. “That’s unacceptable,” he bellowed. “When I fall down the mine shaft, I’m the only one that’s going to be able to call for help. The rest of you are going to have to fire off your gun, and they’ll give you a CD for that.”
On February 20, Schoolcraft was called to meet with Lieutenant Rafael Mascol to arrange a hearing with the precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, about his decision to appeal his recent low-performance evaluation. Schoolcraft hadn’t been meeting his quotas.
Mascol talked about the reality behind the evaluation system, which rated officers from a low of 1 to a high of 5.
“If anybody read the standards of what a 5 is, nobody could ever get it . . . because most police officers are just basically meeting standards. They are basically doing what they are told to do. Very few police officers are actually going above and beyond the recommended minimum of competence, you know? Those get a 4. For the most part, most police officers are just meeting standards.”
Mascol then sang along with a line from a song on his radio, “I can’t get enough of your love,” and added, “Unfortunately, if we like you, you get a certain thing. If we don’t like you, you get a certain thing as opposed to what the department requires in the performance standards. I have no time to change the entire department mind, unfortunately.”
Schoolcraft listened quietly, his tape recorder running. Mascol told him he needed to “improve his activity.”
“How do I improve it?” Schoolcraft asked.
“Maybe answer more radio runs, do more summonses, might write some more reports and stuff, be more proactive out there,” Mascol replied. “If you have trouble seeing activity, maybe we can put you with an officer with high activity who could point it out to you.”
Mascol’s message was clear: Go along with the program.
Schoolcraft’s memo book provides a clipped sense of what he was doing at the time. On February 22, 2009, he started at 3 p.m., spending the next eight hours babysitting a prisoner at Brooklyn Central Booking. He then returned to the precinct and was ordered to take overtime and sent to man the SkyWatch tower at Gates and Garvey. At 2:30 a.m., nearly 12 hours after he started his shift, he wrote that he had been “released from forced OT.”
Three days later, he was called to meet with Mauriello about appealing his evaluation. The appeal had been referred to Deputy Chief Michael Marino for assessment.
Schoolcraft and PBA delegate, Raymond Gonzalez went to Mauriello’s office. Eventually six bosses joined them: Captain Theodore Lauterborn, Lieutenant Jean Delafuente, Lieutenant Rafael Mascol, Sergeant Raymond Stukes, and Sergeant Steven Weiss. Most of the meeting was taken up by the bosses trying to get Schoolcraft to agree to raise his activity and wondering why he had become inactive. Schoolcraft stubbornly resisted.
“What’s the standard?” Schoolcraft asked.
“If you’re out there on the street, we gotta see something,” Mauriello said. “I’m not here to hurt anybody. . . . The days of 10,000 extra cops are gone. We’re bare bones. They want everybody to get in the game.”
“I’m contesting that I’m seeing something and not doing anything,” Schoolcraft said. “I’ve taken action on anything I’ve observed, whether a summons, an arrest, or a warn and admonish.”
“The last thing he wants is this to go to Marino,” another boss said. “You’re likely to get kicked out of the command and work in another shithole.”
“No one here is looking to hurt you,” Mauriello said. “The people in the community want active cops. Our job is to make sure Bed-Stuy is safe.”
Mauriello went on: “With these numbers, Marino will go through the roof. His head will come through the top of Wilson Avenue. He’s going to call me and ask me what the fuck was I doing six months ago that I didn’t put you on paper.”
Schoolcraft then angered Mauriello by insisting on appealing and noting that he was going to get a lawyer.
Mauriello said, “When you came in here through the door, you should have said I have a lawyer and I’m gonna do what I gotta do, instead of wasting 45 minutes of us trying to talk to you and show you the results, and this is the way you are going to go out. So you know what? I tried.”
Schoolcraft left the meeting feeling he had been ambushed, an attempt to intimidate him to drop his appeal and shut up.
Later, Sergeant Stukes documented the meeting. His frustration with Schoolcraft was almost pungent. “PO Schoolcraft was counseled in regards to his low activity and the annual evaluation. He was instructed in the proper performance of his duties in the 81st Precinct and was given the opportunity to find a way to enhance his activity on a steady basis, at which time PO Schoolcraft refused any help!”
Later that night, their words still ringing in his ears, Schoolcraft helped a guy who needed an ambulance, served family court papers, responded to a call of a blocked driveway, and several other matters. He got home around 1 a.m.
On February 27, he wrote his own appeal of the evaluation, noting that the Patrol Guide “makes no reference to activity levels,” and that his evaluation was based on bias and used other factors besides performance. He also accused Mauriello and Sergeant Stukes of falsifying documentation. He went on to ask for records, including a calculation of the “actual number of hours that Schoolcraft is available for enforcement duty.” This was a shot at the fact that cops were constantly being pulled away from enforcement for pedestrian duties.
It was rare for an NYPD officer to do this kind of thing: talk back to the bosses and accuse them of falsifying documents. So the screws continued to turn.
On March 1, in a monthly activity report, Stukes wrote that Schoolcraft’s work was “unacceptable by NYPD standards.” Mauriello chimed in: “Unacceptable.”
A week later, Schoolcraft’s lawyer, James Brown, sent a formal appeal, charging that the evaluation was based on Schoolcraft’s “activity,” or numbers, and pointed out he had been given no set target for activity. Of course, it would be illegal for his bosses to set performance numbers, but they were doing everything else short of it.
On the evening of March 13, 2009, Schoolcraft was assigned to a foot post on Reid and Bainbridge. While he was talking with another officer, Sergeant Weiss approached him and accused him of being off post.
When Schoolcraft disagreed, Weiss said, “You’re being a wise ass right now. You’re off post because you’re inside a building talking to PO Chan.”
Almost tongue in cheek, Schoolcraft wrote in his memo book, “Sgt. Weiss wouldn’t elaborate on the boundaries of my post when asked. Sgt. Weiss responds with a smirk.”
Weiss then said, “‘You’re getting a CD for being off post and Chan for unnecessary conversation,’ and then ordered me back on my post.”
Later in the evening, Weiss took Schoolcraft’s memo book, read the entries, and lost his temper.
From Schoolcraft’s notes: “After reading said copy, Sgt. Weiss lost control, yelling while berating and belittling me in front of the 81 desk surrounded by multiple police officers because I disputed his charges that I was off post.”
Of course, it was completely out of bounds for a police officer to write critically of a boss in his memo book, which is an official document. And one might think that Schoolcraft was just amusing himself. Far from it. He took his responsibility to document events on his tour seriously. But it didn’t help him with his bosses.
The taking of the memo book meant that from March 13 on, the command was aware that Schoolcraft was documenting events that didn’t make his bosses look good.
On March 16, it happened again. This time Lieutenant Timothy Caughey and Sergeant Weiss found Schoolcraft off post after he went to a bathroom. Schoolcraft felt he was being harassed, so he went on his police radio and demanded that the duty captain respond to his location.
A radio call of this sort was usually only used for a major incident. “The radio went crazy,” Schoolcraft recalled. “In my activity log, I was documenting the retaliation, and they were punishing guys [other officers] I talked to. They were building a paper trail.”
—From The NYPD Tapes by Graham A. Rayman. Copyright © 2013 by the author and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 14, 2013