Well, folks, last week, the Adrian Schoolcraft saga finally made it into the “ripped from the headlines” realm of Dick Wolf’s television empire with an episode of Law and Order: SVU titled “Internal Affairs” that aired October 9.
This episode is a curious mash-up of three stories that have carried their share of headlines over the past three years: Schoolcraft, who blew the whistle on manipulation of crime statistics; the “rape cops” case involving Police Officers Mata and Moreno, who were acquitted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated young woman; and the initial cover-up of sexual assault in upper Manhattan.
Read on, then, for an recap of the episode, annotated for the Hollywood treatment vs. what really happened.
Hollywood: The episode begins in a Bronx precinct locker room, with Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters), who has been busted from detective to patrol for sleeping with a prostitute, speaking with Officer Michael Groves (Marc Menchaca), who has been transferred from the 12th Precinct for some unknown reason.
First they talk about how each has been punished with transfers to the Bronx and given “highway therapy,” in which officers who are out-of-favor are sent to precincts far from their homes.
Reality: Highway Therapy indeed exists.
Groves, playing the Schoolcraft character, presses an envelope containing a key to a safe deposit box into Cassidy’s hands.
“Anything happens to me, a friend of mine will tell you where the box is. you take what’s in the box to the New York Times,” Groves says.
Cassidy: “You serious?”
Groves: “Ever since I turned on them in the 12th, they’re on my phone. They’re following me everywhere.”
Heavily armed officers burst into the locker room and force Groves to the ground. They taser him and drag him away. Cassidy puts the envelope in his pocket.
Reality: Schoolcraft never turned to a fellow precinct officer in Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct for help. He was concerned that they would rat him out for secretly recording conversations in the station house.
Instead, he sought advice from another NYPD whistleblower, David Durk, who called Internal Affairs. Internal Affairs left messages for Schoolcraft at the precinct. Then he gave his information to the Quality Assurance Division.
As for the tasering? Totally unrealistic. Officers would never act so radically unless the subject was threatening himself or others at the very moment.
Hollywood: In the next scene, Cassidy is at home with his girlfriend, Det. Olivia Benson (Maritska Hartigay). He tells her what happened: “Mike Groves, a cop on my tour. They came for him. They tased him and they hauled him off to Bellevue on a psych hold. He was definitely acting paranoid, but then they did come for him.”
(Reality: This is a paraphrase of what Schoolcraft actually told Jamaica Hospital nurses after he was dragged to the psychiatric emergency room on Oct. 31, 2009.)
Cassidy: “Groves told me he was exiled to the Bronx for making noise about his former precinct, the 12th. Cooking their books.”
Benson: “Transferring the whistleblower I can see, but sending him to the rubber room?”
Cassidy: “Yeah, but after they got rid of him, he didn’t get the hint. So he calls Internal Affairs.”
Benson: So they drive him crazy and then they send him to the psyche ward?”
Cassidy: “Maybe they did it to discredit him, maybe Groves is actually crazy, I don’t know, but I feel like I should go to Internal Affairs and tell them what I saw.”
Benson: “Internal Affairs? Ryan, they took your shield. Are you sure you want to rattle that cage?”
Cassidy: “Yeah, but what if Groves is telling the truth.”
(Reality: None of the officers in Schoolcraft’s precinct backed him on his allegations, and none checked on him after he was dragged from his apartment.)
Benson: “You’re the only person in his life? What about going to the PBA?”
Cassidy: “Ah, come on, Livs.”
(Reality: Schoolcraft did try to get help from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, but was repeatedly told the union couldn’t help him.)
Benson: “His lawyer? His family? Hey Brian for once in your life, take care of yourself.”
At the headquarters of the Special Victims Unit, much-disliked Internal Affairs Lieutenant Ed Tucker (Robert John Burke) comes in.
Tucker: “Enough of the small talk. I have a problem and I need your help.”
Benson: “IAB needs SVU’s help? You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
Tucker: “It’s not my dream either. Here’s what I can tell you. We’re looking a Compstat issue in the 12th. Some of cops in the unit are losing complaints. Yesterday an officer who had been my key witness in the 12th was forcibly institutionalized and medicated.”
SVU Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek): “At the 12th’s request? That’s hardball.”
Tucker: “Officially he was deemed a danger to himself or others. Among the crime stats that saw a drop were sexual assaults. Now we’ve investigated a few but my whistleblower, whose credibility is now shattered, claims that he knows a woman, Tanya Jenkins. She reported a rape to him that was never entered into the system. I need you to check it out.”
(Reality: Here, the show’s writers suggest that it is the line officers, not their commanders, who are making crime reports disappear. Schoolcraft’s allegations, later substantiated, showed the manipulating was coming from higher-ups. Also, Schoolcraft was never used as an undercover informer by IAB.)
SVU launches an undercover investigation into the rape complaint. They learn that two officers in the 12th Precinct have coerced the victim into dropping sexual assault charges against them. Meanwhile, Cassidy goes undercover to catch the wayward officers.
Captain Cragen: “We’re looking at more than fixing stats here.”
Later, Cassidy reports for duty at the 12th. A commander there says, “This is what I get for good stats? They send me rookies and burnouts.”
Cassidy: “I appreciate the chance.”
Cassidy then goes undercover with the offending officers, West and Quinn, who is female.
(Reality: In the Mata/Moreno case, both officers were men, and their activities were unraveled by security video, rather than an elaborate undercover operation.)
West and Quinn don’t talk to each other on the radio. Instead they use their cell phones, a practice that, in real life, Commissioner Raymond Kelly has recently sought to prevent, because it does not leave a paper trail for later investigation.
Trying to co-opt Cassidy and test his loyalty, West and Quinn take him to a brothel, where he appears to have sex with a prostitute. Oddly, Quinn, the female officer, is OK with it.
The episode then becomes more about serial rapist cops than downgrading of crimes, as SVU set up a sting in which one of its female detectives tries to catch West and Quinn in the act.
But West and Quinn are sharper than that. Someone in the precinct tells them that Cassidy is an undercover, and they confront him, expose his wire, and take him to a pier to kill him. Benson and the other detectives show up and disarm West and Quinn, saving Cassidy’s life.
(Reality: In real life, Mata and Moreno were acquitted of sexual assault, but convicted of official misconduct and fired.)
Benson interviews the female victim, Jenkins. Jenkins describes how she was treated when she tried to file a complaint against West and Quinn. She first spoke to Groves, the Schoolcraft-like character.
“He took me to his lieutenant,” Jenkins says. “West showed up and he was angry. He said I was a drunk slut and I should keep my mouth shut. I knew not to trust that lieutenant. Officer Groves, I thought he was on my side.”
Benson: “He was.”
Quinn, the corrupt female officer, agrees to cooperate. She tells Benson: “Just so you know, it wasn’t only West. There were a lot of drunk girls. A lot of long nights. Guys were into that or on coke or on take or all three. Give me a pad and pen.”
Quinn reveals her own lieutenant told her that Cassidy was undercover.
(Reality: Schoolcraft has alleged that his commanders found out that Internal Affairs wanted to speak to him. The raid on his apartment was an effort to discredit him, he alleges.)
Tucker, the Internal Affairs lieutenant, meets with Cassidy. “The whole precinct was dirty,” Tucker says.
Cassidy: “Would it help if there was a paper trail? Groves told me to take whatever was in this [safe deposit] box to the New York Times.
Tucker: “Where is it?”
Cassidy: “Maybe if you got groves out of the psych ward, he could tell you.”
Tucker: “You had it this the whole time? I thought you wanted your shield back.”
Cassidy: “That’s why I’m giving it to you now. Hey, we done here, Tucker? Get me Groves’s release.”
(Reality: Again, the way that Internal Affairs jumps in to back Groves is completely at odds with the way the NYPD handled the case in real life.)
Cassidy then goes to see Groves to get him released from the psych ward.
Groves: “Cass, What’s up? They pulled me out of bed at 4 a.m.”
Cassidy: “Upon further reflection, the NYPD has decided you’re not crazy. I got your release right here.”
Groves: “This a trick?”
Cassidy: “No, it’s not a trick. I’m going to take you home.”
Groves: “To Rockaway?”
Cassidy: “Unless you want to stay here. C’mon, let’s go.”
Groves: “Thank you. Seriously. Just like that?”
Cassidy: “Yeah, just like that. We got Quinn to turn on West and your lieutenant. The whole house is coming down. And Groves, you’re a hero, man. Let’s get you home brother.”
Reality: For those who have closely followed the Schoolcraft saga, the episode’s ending is interesting because Groves gets his cathartic moment where he is cleared and called a hero.
Schoolcraft, to date, hasn’t gotten that moment. The NYPD never cleared him. No fellow officers, no outside agency, no knight in shining armor ever swooped in to rescue Schoolcraft from the psych ward. Real life doesn’t work that way.