Cop Who Made Tapes Accuses NYPD of False Arrest

Officer says he was taken to psychiatric hospital against his will

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Shouts followed the pounding on the apartment door: "Adrian! Adrian!"

    It was Halloween night last year, but the scene outside patrolman Adrian Schoolcraft's home had nothing to do with trick-or-treating. The unannounced visitors were fellow New York Police Department officers from the Emergency Service Unit — men trained to capture dangerous suspects once they're cornered.

    But wasn't this the home of a cop who said he just went home sick?

    Hearing the commotion outside, Schoolcraft did what had become second-nature to him: He clicked on a tape recorder, then whispered into it.

    "All right. ... ESU is here."

    As several armed officers entered the apartment, a ranking NYPD officer found Schoolcraft resting on his bed — and gave him a scolding.

    "Adrian ... you didn't hear us knocking on that door?" Deputy Chief Michael Marino can be heard saying on tape.

    "No," Schoolcraft replies, saying he had taken Nyquil.

    "For the last couple hours?" Marino asks.

    "No ... Why would I expect anyone to knock on my door, chief?" Schoolcraft asks, sounding groggy.

    "I don't know, Adrian, but if you hear somebody knocking normally you get up and answer it; they were kicking on that door loud and yelling."

    "I wasn't feeling well ...."

    As the conversation goes on, Marino tells Schoolcraft he's showing worrisome signs of agitation.

    "Chief...," he replies, "if you were woken up in your house how would you behave? What is this, Russia?"

    Schoolcraft's account of the messy episode that unfolded next bumps against the NYPD's carefully crafted image as a fine-tuned crime fighting machine.

    His description of being taken in handcuffs to a psychiatric ward that night suggests the nation's largest police force could have a vindictive underbelly. He claims that cops risk retribution when they try, as he did, to blow the whistle on supervisors' faking of crime statistics to make the stats look better.

    To back up his allegations, Schoolcraft made hundreds of hours of secret tapes while on duty — everything from roll calls to locker room chatter to bosses yelling at him. The tapes, along with medical records and other documents, were supplied to The Associated Press.

    Police officials say Schoolcraft's allegations about ticket quotas and fudged stats were taken seriously, but he was uncooperative in an investigation of them. They also view his case as an isolated incident, not a brewing corruption scandal.

    Legitimate whistleblower or not, Schoolcraft would pay dearly following the Halloween encounter. After what he describes as a frightening, involuntary hospital stay, he was suspended from the force. He's gone into self-exile in upstate New York while his lawyer pursues a $50 million civil rights lawsuit against the city.

    Schoolcraft has of late been on a crusade, doing multiple interviews and starting a website, www.schoolcraftjustice.com, to promote his cause and encourage other officers to report misconduct. His story was first reported in the New York Daily News, after which the Village Voice published a series of articles.

    Parts of his story — like the deputy chief's foul-mouthed order to have him hauled out of his home — might sound sketchy. But there's one thing: It's all on tape.

    "Just take him," Marino can be heard demanding. "I can't f------ stand him anymore."

    ___

    Eight years ago, when Schoolcraft joined the NYPD, it was enjoying a decade-long decline in serious crime that made it the envy of departments across the country. Murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, larcenies and auto thefts together had fallen more than 60 percent since 1993, a trend that continues today.

    Part of the formula for success has been CompStat — a program to squash spikes in crimes, petty and otherwise, before they get out of control. Patterns are tracked by computer. Patrols are deployed based on where and when criminals are most active. Precinct commanders are judged mercilessly on the results at CompStat meetings at police headquarters.

    Critics say the strict accountability has created the temptation to record felonies as misdemeanors — or sometimes not to record them at all. In recent years, a handful of commanders have been demoted or transferred amid allegations of cooking the books.

    "The years of crime going down has put incredible pressure on everyone in the NYPD," said criminologist Eli Silverman. "The police department is fighting its own success."

    The NYPD stands by its numbers, saying the instances of manipulating stats are minute in a city where more than 2,000 serious crimes are reported each week. A special unit regularly audits the figures to protect accuracy.

    But officers insist the fudging exists. Silverman and a fellow researcher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, John Eterno, recently published a study based on 491 surveys of former NYPD captains that said they felt pressure to downgrade crimes, put off reports, anything to keep the stats down.

    Silverman believes CompStat is a good idea turned on its head.

    "You need accountability, and you need timely intelligence," he said. "But now it's become all about the numbers. You just have to produce. Numbers are the bottom line — where it should be good policing."

    Another way numbers come into play: The NYPD allows commanders to set "production goals" for ticket writing and arrests for underperforming officers.

    Union officials say the goals really are arbitrary quotas, and have accused the department of violating rules barring punishment of cops who don't meet them. Police officials deny that, saying tickets are written only when there's a need for it.

    Schoolcraft supporters say that's where more recent recordings — made by another commander in his Brooklyn precinct since his story broke — come in.

    One captures a captain setting specific totals for tickets citing double-parking, driving without a seat belt and parking in bus stops. "You, as bosses, have to demand this and have to count it. ... I really don't have a problem firing people."

    Another ranking officer shares his concern about the consequences of not making the numbers.

    "Everybody took a shot at me at CompStat, like a pinata last time, so I'm expecting that again."

    The same commander warns about wire-wearing officers like Schoolcraft. He also gives them a specific label.

    "Rats."