Chief-Leader
May 18, 2012

 

PBA Ad Lights Up NYPD Over Pressure on Tickets

Say Cops, Motorists Squeezed

 

A COMMON ANTAGONIST: The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is using this ad to rally public support in its battle with the NYPD over what it claims is an attempt to force cops to write more tickets and justify them in court by punishing those who fall short of goals with unfavorable job assignments and loss of pay.

By MARK TOOR

Patrick Lynch; Decries scapgoating     

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Cops being abused by management.

 

She stares with disgust as she hands her driver’s license out the car window to a police officer holding a summons book.

“Don’t blame the cop,” shouts the headline accompanying this newspaper ad. “Blame NYPD management for the pressure to write summonses and the pressure to convict motorists.”

Pressuring the Bosses

The ad, which ran in area newspapers last week, was the latest effort by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association to combat what it considers illegal quotas for officers and pressure to win at any cost in traffic court.

“Because of ticket quotas, New York City police officers are being subjected to undue pressure to write summonses to as many motorists as possible,” the ad says. “And for some reason, once the case gets to traffic court, they are being subjected to undue pressure to convict as many motorists as possible. In the first instance, the pressure comes in the form of lousy assignments, denial of transfer requests, unwanted transfers and other penalties.

“And in traffic court, where Internal Affairs supervisors are assigned for the sole purpose of punishing officers, the pressure comes from the risk of losing three vacation days—worth more than $900—if the motorist is found not guilty,” the ad continues. “With all these pressures, the cop loses, the public loses and the traffic-court justice system loses. The only winner may be the city’s treasury, which collects either from the cop or the motorist.”

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement, “Police officers are furious over the mistreatment they are receiving in traffic court at the hands of NYPD management. These men and women, who have dedicated their lives to keeping this city safe, are being severely penalized when they lose a traffic-court case. The PBA has undertaken a public-education effort which includes radio commercials and several print ads to educate the public about the abuse of these brave men and women who deserve and have earned far better treatment by management.”

Mayor Bloomberg jumped into the long-running quota debate with both feet, saying, “We do not have quotas. My recollection is quotas per se are illegal, so we certainly don’t have them.”

Both setting quotas and punishing officers who do not meet them are illegal under state law. The Police Department says it does not have quotas but performance standards in order to make sure cops don’t while away entire shifts doing nothing.

“Does the Police Department measure productivity?” Mr. Bloomberg asked rhetorically. “Of course they do. They’re supposed to do that. They have a responsibility to do that.”

However, several officers, including Adrian Schoolcraft and Adhyl Polanco, have surreptitiously recorded their bosses insisting on what sounds an awful lot like quotas, and threatening punishment for cops who do not meet them.

“I spoke to the [commanding officer] for about an hour and a half,” said one supervisor taped by Officer Polanco at the 41st Precinct in The Bronx. "...They want 20 [summonses] and 1 [arrest]...Next week you could be at 25 and 1, you could be at 35 and 1, and guess what? Until you decide to quit this job and become a Pizza Hut deliveryman, this is what you’re going to be doing until then.”

Damning Statement

“If you don’t work...I’m moving you,” Deputy Inspector Stephen Mauriello, then-commander of the 81st Precinct, where Officer Schoolcraft worked, said on one of the tapes. “...You’re going to another platoon.”

Both officers have been suspended with pay, even though an internal NYPD report found Officer Schoolcraft’s claims of quotas and manipulation of crime statistics were true.

“The only ones who profess not to know there are quotas are the Mayor and the Police Commissioner,” said Eli B. Silverman, a Professor Emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has studied and trained police forces around the world.

The assignment of Sergeants from the Internal Affairs Bureau to monitor officers’ performance in traffic court came as a result of the probe into ticket-fixing in Bronx precincts. One way to fix a ticket had been to pull it out of the summons box and discard it (tickets are now computerized). Officers also got tickets invalidated by giving faulty testimony in traffic court or failing to show up for hearings.

Now, officers say, if they lose a case, the IAB Sergeants scrutinize the ticket and the accompanying paperwork and punish them for minor errors. “Any minor mistake at all—you forget to dot an I or cross a T—even an error of omission is enough for those IAB Sergeants to try to blame a police officer for losing a traffic-court case,” a PBA official told THE CHIEF-LEADER. “And it has our members absolutely furious.”