Recently a woman informed her supervisor that she may need to begin work late in order to bring her children to school because her husband was jailed for three months for driving with a suspended license. After she accidentally hit a city trash can and went out to look at the damage, her husband sat in the driver’s seat to try to restart the car. The police arrived and assumed he had been driving.
A concerned co-worker asked if she was worried for her husband’s safety around violent criminals, to which she responded, “everyone’s in there for similar things - traffic violations, marijuana possession, loitering.”
Of course, hardened criminals can still be found at prisons for long-term confinement, but it’s telling that there are jails filled with violators of government regulations while more and more violent criminals go unpunished.
And it’s happening in numerous places at once. What’s behind it?
Disappearing violent crime
Schoolcraft has produced audio tapes he secretly made of roll call meetings at the 81st precinct, which Mauriello headed, to back up his allegations that officers were ordered to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors and to refuse to take victims' complaints in an effort to drive down the crime rate. [Emphasis added].
The precinct bosses giving these orders answered to the police commissioner who in turn answered to the mayor. The level of violent crime is important to the voters the mayor must face for reelection.
Disappearing violent crime committed by police
Certain complaints were allegedly disappeared even after they were filed - when those reporting the crimes were victimized by police officers themselves.
Schoolcraft reported to the Internal Affairs Bureau that two precinct supervisors had entered a locked file room and removed records of civilian complaints against one of the supervisors.
Quotas, but only for crimes against the government
As interested as the mayor may have been in being able to report a decrease in murders and assaults, an increasing rate of arrests for so called victimless crimes was not seen negatively. On the contrary, meeting quotas for such arrests was an unwritten rule:
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 a-- chewed out, in straight words. I’m sick of getting yelled at.”
The Voice concluded that the quotas were indeed real.
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. [Emphases added].
Model officer turned whistleblower
Schoolcraft, who was raised in Texas where his father served as a career police officer, became a well-decorated sailor serving as a paramedic in the US Navy before joining the NYPD to be close to his mother who was being treated for cancer in the city.
As a member of the NYPD, he was awarded the "Meritorious Police Duty Medal" and later recognized for his "dedication to the New York City Police Department and to the City of New York."
He also built up a name for caring for all members of the community.
Schoolcraft became known in the precinct for rescuing more than a dozen abandoned pets from the streets of Bed-Stuy. He saved dogs that were starving, dogs with bleeding paws, and dogs left tied to fences.
Over time, he began raising substantive concerns inside the precinct. He wrote, for example, a report to the precinct commander about the constant overtime. “You had officers working 20 hours straight, day after day,” he says. “To me, that was a safety issue.”
Community members attested to Schoolcraft’s character
[At] one of the more troubled buildings in the precinct … Residents of the complex recently told the Voice that Schoolcraft was the only cop they really knew, because he actually tried to engage them in real conversations.
Whistleblower sent to psych ward
None of Schoolcraft's model behavior endeared him to his supervisors, who were enraged by his reports to Internal Affairs of arrest quotas, stopping and frisking without cause, and discouraging complaints against actual criminals. On Halloween night, in 2009, a few hours after he called Internal Affairs with an update about his supervisors violating basic rights, his apartment building was surrounded.
A number of police supervisors entered the apartment with a key they obtained from the landlord. They had told the landlord that Schoolcraft was suicidal … About a dozen NYPD supervisors piled into his small apartment …
The officers confiscated a tape recorder that was recording, but didn’t know about a backup recorder capturing Deputy Chief Michael Marino's voice as he told the whistleblower that he would be sent to a psychiatric ward for not following orders.
"You’ve disobeyed an order. And the way you’re acting is not right .. You are going to be suspended,” Marino says.
When [another officer] tells Schoolcraft he’s in trouble, he replies, “If I did something wrong, write me up.” It was then that Chief Marino lost his temper, according to the tape. “Listen to me, they are going to treat you like an EDP [emotionally disturbed person],” he says …
Jamaica Hospital records obtained by the Voice indicate that police gave intentionally misleading information to the medical staff about Schoolcraft’s behavior that night, [claiming they had to break down a door to prevent his suicide] which caused them to treat him as a psychiatric patient.
The whistleblower was involuntarily confined in the hospital’s psychiatric ward for six days in horrendous conditions.
The officer was handcuffed to a gurney and left in the hallway, half-naked, and forced to remain there for nearly a week. He was denied access to a phone and given next to nothing to eat.
Psychotic, but welcome back
After his release, his precinct boss continued the harassment. He had officers visit his Queens apartment and continued to send officers to “visit” his home after he moved to upstate New York to escape the surveillance. This continued until he went public with his recordings, leading his boss to offer to bring him back on job and leading HuffPost to ask,
Now if the NYPD thought Schoolcraft was crazy, why would they want him back on the force?
Schoolcraft turned the city down, sued and, eventually, the City of New York paid Schoolcraft $600,000 for the damage NYPD caused him in revenge for his whistleblowing activities.
Politicization of police
Please visit again for our continuation of this series on the politicization of police, as we look at:
- How police plant drugs on inner-city men to meet arrest quotas
- The FBI’s failure to act on evidence of planned violent attacks
- The FBI’s use of tax dollars to attack political opponents
Please also see our previous article in this series: