A New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer, who spoke out publicly against the department’s use of illegal quotas for summonses and arrests, filed a lawsuit [PDF] in federal court this week alleging his superiors discriminated and retaliated against him based on his race and speech.
NYPD Officer Adhyl Polanco began voicing his concerns during roll call at his South Bronx precinct in 2009 after he became frustrated with the pressure the department was putting on officers to issue summonses and arrests each month. According to Polanco’s lawsuit, the NYPD was threatening officers with “termination and negative employment actions, such as low performance evaluations and punitive postings,” to force them to meet their quotas.
After his complaints were met with silence and punishment, he began making audio recordings of the roll call meetings. His superiors could be heard on tape, on multiple occasions, urging officers to complete a “20 and 1”: twenty summonses and one arrest within about twenty days of patrol. They also told officers to get their numbers by targeting minority communities.
“If you think one and twenty is breaking your balls, guess what you’ll be doing,” one supervisor is heard saying on tape recorded by Polanco. “You are going to be doing a lot more, a lot more than what they are saying.” Another supervisor continued, “next week twenty five and one, thirty five and one, and until you decide to quit this job and go to work at Pizza Hut, this is what you are going to be doing ’til then.”
In a 2013 interview, Polanco said he resorted to taping the meetings because his attempts to work within the ‘proper channels’ to protest the informal quota system only put him in hot water, telling Colorlines, “I wrote to Internal Affairs expressing my concern about the racial profiling and [soon after] I was suspended for three days without pay.”
According to the lawsuit, Polanco told Internal Affairs he was facing retaliation in December 2009 “in that after being falsely and pretextually charged with insubordination, he was heavily punished as follows: 30 days suspension without pay, 1500 days suspension with pay, over 400 days of punitive posting in VIPER, over 1500 days on restricted duty psychological hold without cause, no vacation for four years, no training for four years and placement on level two performance monitoring for over four years.”
In January, he said he was retaliated against further “by being placed on modified assignment transfer out of command and placed on mental watch through 2015.”
“After being punished repeatedly, I put the recordings out to the news,” Polanco said in the interview.
The contents of his tapes, as well as the testimonies of other officers such as Adrian Schoolcraft and Frank Palestro, were later reported in the Village Voice’s 2010 series, “The NYPD Tapes,” putting a white-hot spotlight on racially biased arrests and the use of Stop-and-Frisk in the city. An interview with Polanco was also featured on Channel 7 Eyewitness News that year.
But while Polanco and others were being heard in the press, they were being disciplined harshly back at their precincts. “After [Polanco] was identified as a witness in the stop and frisk federal class action lawsuit,” his complaint states, “the retaliation against [him] intensified.”
Since October 2014, Polanco has been placed on dismissal probation, mental watch and performance monitoring. He claims he has been given “less desireable jobs than his white counterparts with similar age and time on the police force,” and has been reprimanded and sanctioned “in a more severe manner” than them as well.
He has also faced racism and harassment by his colleagues: his locker was “vandilized by being pasted over with photographs of [Police Benevolent Association] Union Leader Patrick Lynch.” In January of this year, he was “accosted at the premises of the 9th precinct by police officer Steve Trugilio who verbally abused plaintiff calling him a ‘fucking bitch.'” He has requested a transfer to another precinct “as his safety is under threat in this environment,” but virtually all of his complaints and requests have been ignored.
Officer Polanco Joins Black, Latino Officers In Class Action Suit Against NYPD
Polanco is also part of a class action lawsuit [PDF] recently filed against the city and NYPD, joined by several black and latino officers claiming racial discrimination, harassment and punishment for speaking out against the quota system.
Officer Edreweene Raymond, who worked in the NYPD’s Transit District, said in the lawsuit that “during his first year, he was told by his Supervisors at Transit District 32 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that his core duty was to get as many arrests as possible and issue as many summons as possible in order to make the quota,” which was one arrest and five summons per month.
Raymond complained and asked he “be allowed to use his discretion and that he be excused from the quota.” His request was denied and he was given a punitive posting on the “Coney Island Summer Detail.” He was placed on the midnight shift, and again given a quota — this time directed to “make the quota by arresting people on the train at night for occupying more than one seat.” He refused again and was reprimanded, eventually being transfered to the 3rd Platoon of the Transit District.
Officer Sandy Gonzalez said he was threatened and chastised by his precinct commander for not meeting his quota. His commander allegedly told him, “on 128th street [in the south Bronx], you can write 100 C summons any day.” (‘C’ is for criminal).
Officer Pedro Serrano claimed he was threatened with, and faced, forced overtime on his weekends off, negative evaluations and punitive postings for refusing to comply with the quota. When he complained to his supervisor that the residents of his precinct were poor and “that he did not feel right about giving them spurious summons,” she disagreed, referring to them as “animals.”
Serrano then illustrated how his fellow officers sometimes conducted their stop-and-frisk searches:
In the spring of 2012, while driving by Beekman Avenue and East 141 street, the commandant of the 40th precinct, defendant Chistopher McCormack, saw a black person standing against the wall. In the presence of plaintiff Serrano, Inspector McCormack got out of his car and walked up to this individual and proceeded to open the black man’s pants. He opened the man’s zipper, pulled down the man’s pants and exposed the man’s penis. He then grabbed the man’s penis and passed his hands between the man’s butt cheeks. Defendant McCormack then pulled out some narcotics and give it to his driver.
Officer Derrick Waller claims that he was under intense pressure to comply with the quota, and was told by a member of the performance monitoring division to “pick any dude walking across the street with his pants hanging down, underwear showing and write a jay walking summons” and “just write the damn summonses.”
Officer Olayokun Olagoke said his supervisor “subjected him to verbal humiliation, at one time ordering him not to speak on the squad car radio, calling him ‘stupid’ and a ‘moron’ and threatening to and putting him on a punitive post at the board walk” for refusing to comply with the quota system.
Polanco and the other officers are all currently employed by the NYPD.