“Two years ago, a police officer in a Brooklyn precinct became gravely concerned about how the public was being served. To document his concerns, he began carrying around a digital sound recorder, secretly recording his colleagues and superiors.
He recorded precinct roll calls. He recorded his precinct commander and other supervisors. He recorded street encounters. He recorded small talk and stationhouse banter. In all, he surreptitiously collected hundreds of hours of cops talking about their jobs.
Made without the knowledge or approval of the NYPD, the tapes-made between June 1, 2008, and October 31, 2009, in the 81st Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant and obtained exclusively by the Voice-provide an unprecedented portrait of what it’s like to work as a cop in this city.”
From the Village Voice, May 4, 2010
And so begins Graham Rayman’s “just the facts, ma’am” reporting of the chilling truth of policing procedures in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s 81st Precinct and it would seem to require a questioning of all precinct commanders by politicians, community boards and precinct councils in their area on exactly what’s going on?
If the capture of the Time Square Bomber withing 54 hours was police work at its finest, then what goes on at the 81 is on the other end of the spectrum. The tapes reveal a deliberate manipulation of statistics in opposing directions that would make Goldman Sachs blush, if not liable. The edicts coming down from the chain of command required officers to show they are working by producing stop-and-frisks and summonses. The more numbers of this busywork,the better. However, actual crimes such as robbery are either downgraded or not recorded because of police harassment of complaintants, both designed to give the impression that crime is going down.
These secret recordings tell of “bosses” “spend”-ing “more time in the roll calls haranguing the officers for ‘activity’-or ‘paying the rent,’ as it was known-than anything else. In other words, writing summonses, doing stop-and-frisks (known as ‘250s’), doing community visits and making arrests.”
And again “On June 12, 2008, Lieutenant B. relayed the summons target: ‘The XO [second-in-command] was in the other day. He actually laid down a number. He wants at least three seat belts, one cell phone, and 11 others. All right, so if I was on patrol, I would be sure to get three seat belts, one cell phone and 11 others.’”
It may have been one such stop that led to attorney’s Michael and Evelyn Warren being brutalized by police after coming to the assistance of a stopped and harassed motorist.
The tapes reveal Roll Call instructions to beat officers to make their numbers and they are told they are at the bottom catching these orders from on high, the “s-” , that rolls downhill. But in truth, these officers are many rungs from the bottom and this is a very large load. After the officer is forced to act, because “low numbers meant criticism and demotion; high numbers meant praise and promotion”, the load lands on the citizen stopped in the street, affecting their mental and financial health. It continues on to hit significant others who have to work on the healing, it smacks into sons and daughters, little brothers and sisters, all being taught the way things really are. But it does not stop there, because this system of policing, with people used as things to “pay the rent”, is a holdover from slavery, interacting with and feeding the Prison Industrial Complex that Brooklyn resident John Flateau exposed in his book of the same name. But it does not stop there. It continues on and is used by upstate Republicans to gerrymander districts using prison populations as residents, increasing their power while robbing the prisoner home districts.
The Voice advises: If you want to avoid getting a ticket, stay away from police officers during the last few days of the month when the pressure for numbers is the highest. From the tapes, it’s not hard to imagine an officer desperately driving to the precinct, looking for someone smoking pot on a stoop or double-parking to fill some gap in their productivity.
What happens after Schoolcraft meets with investigators is astonishing. After calling in sick, “A dozen police supervisors came to his house and demanded that he return to work. He declined on health grounds. Eventually, Deputy Chief Michael Marino, the commander of Patrol Borough Brooklyn North, which covers 10 precincts, ordered that Schoolcraft be dragged from his apartment in handcuffs and forcibly placed in a Queens mental ward for six days.”
This series will be a must-read. If you can’t find the print edition of the Village Voice, read the whole story on the Web at www.villagevoice.com. Also, thanks to Errol Louis for pulling our coat to this story on his morning show on WWRL 1600AM 6am-9am. David Mark Greaves