NYPD Officer Adhyl Polanco Alleges Arrest Quotas During ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Trial
A New York City policeman testified in federal court on Tuesday that his supervisors pressured officers with quotas for ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches and arrests.
Officer Adhyl Polanco’s testimony came during a landmark trial over the NYPD’s controversial ‘stop-and-frisk’ policing tactic, in which hundreds of thousands of people, the vast majority of them innocent black and Hispanic males, are detained, interrogated and searched each year in an effort to stem crime. The federal class action lawsuit against the practice, Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., opened on Monday in the US District Court for New York’s Southern District.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Polanco, a four-year NYPD veteran assigned to the 41st precinct in the Bronx, was required to perform a certain number of arrests and citations each month. His supervisors “came very hard with the quotas,” he testified. “They call it ‘productivity.’”
In 2009, Polanco secretly recorded audio of a Policeman’s Benevolent Association (PBA) delegate discussing collaboration between the NYPD and the police union to set arrest quotas.
“I spoke to the CO [commanding officer] for about an hour and a half,” the PBA official says. “Twenty-and-one. Twenty-and-one is what the union is backing up… They spoke to the [union] trustees. And that’s what they want, they want 20-and-one.”
“Twenty-and-one means 20 summonses and one arrest a month,” a veteran NYPD officer who wished to remain anonymous told The Nation, which obtained a copy of the clandestine recording. It will be entered into evidence on behalf of the prosecution in the ‘stop-and-frisk’ trial.
“It’s a quota, and they [the union] agreed to it. It’s crazy,” the officer added.
Polanco alleges that by the fall of 2009, supervisors added a monthly quota of five ‘stop-and-frisks’ as a requirement. According to Adhyl, the quotas were “non-negotiable,” and officers were told that they would “become a Pizza Hut delivery man” if they failed to meet them. Punishments allegedly included denial of overtime work, denial of days-off requests, schedule changes or transfers to other precincts. “They can make your life miserable,” Polanco testified.
In a second secret recording obtained by The Nation, an NYPD captain offers further incriminating evidence:
“When the chief came in… [he] said, ‘You know what, you really can’t reduce crime much more, the guys are doing a great job.’ He said that we can… get some of our people who aren’t chipping in to go to some locations [where we are] having problems, and give [residents] the business…”
“That’s all we’re asking you to do,” the recording continues. “… and if we do that, everyone chips in, it’s fine. It’s really non-negotiable.”
“If you don’t meet the quota, they will find [activity] for you,” the anonymous officer told The Nation. “The sergeant will put you in his car and drive you around until whatever he sees will stop and tell you to make an arrest or write a summons, even if you didn’t observe what he said it was.”
The officer claimed that some of these stops involve fabricated offenses.
“The sergeant told me to write two minorities for blocking pedestrian traffic, but they were not blocking pedestrian traffic.”
In 2011, Stephen Anderson, a former NYPD narcotics detective involved in a corruption scandal, testified that officers fabricated bogus drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas. Anderson said the practice of planting drugs on innocent people, known as ‘flaking,’ was widespread.
“It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers or even investigators,” Anderson testified in the Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Since Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, became mayor of New York, there have been more than 5 million ‘stop-and-frisks’ in the city. In 2012, there were 533,042 such stops. Of these, 87 percent were of blacks or Hispanics. Fully 89 percent of those stopped were innocent. Claims that ‘stop-and-frisk’ gets guns off the city’s streets– a stated goal of the program– appear highly dubious; in 2011, only 0.15 percent of the stops, or one out of every 650 of them, resulted in a firearms arrest.
Opponents of ‘stop-and-frisk’ also claim that the practice is a form of police entrapment. Although marijuana possession was decriminalized in New York more than 35 years ago, public possession of the drug is still a crime. Often NYPD officers who stop suspects ask them to empty their pockets, then arrest them when they produce marijuana since the drug is then considered to be ‘in public.’ In 2011, 50,684 people were arrested for low-level marijuana offenses in New York– the highest total of any city on earth. Critics claim that ‘stop-and-frisk’ drug arrests are a contributing factor to the epidemic of mass incarceration, mostly of people of color, in the United States that has resulted in a nation with 5 percent of the world’s population jailing a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Critics also slam the massive diversion of police resources from fighting more serious crime to arresting pot smokers– a newly-released report from the Drug Policy Alliance found that the NYPD has spent a million hours making 440,000 marijuana arrests in the years 2002-2012.
In Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., the plaintiffs accuse the NYPD of practicing racial profiling and violating their constitutional rights. In January, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled ‘stop-and-frisk’ unconstitutional, declaring the practice a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unwarranted search and seizure.
“Where it may difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it while making… stops,” Judge Scheindlin wrote in her ruling.
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