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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Black and Latino Cops Sue NYPD Over Quotas

MANHATTAN (CN) - There may be "thousands" of black and Latino officers facing retaliation from the New York City Police Department for opposing its illegal quota system, a new federal class action claims.

"Promotion or job security in the New York City Police Department depends on the number of arrests made or tickets issued," according to the 37-page complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. "Although the NYPD has continuously denied the existence of quotas and asserts that it relies only on a set of 'productivity goals,' or 'performance goals,' those phrases are mere euphemisms for a quota system."

A so-called "performance evaluation system" keeps officers in line with the quota system under threat of discipline, the lawsuit says.

"The performance evaluation system to which the plaintiffs are subjected by the defendants although neutral on its face, is un-evenly applied in that minority officers are more likely to be charged, investigated and receive more punishment, than their white counterparts for the same alleged offenses," the complaint states.

Bronx police officer Andy Gonzalez is the lead plaintiff among the four black and Latino men seeking punitive damages for discrimination.

Two of his co-plaintiffs, Adhyl Polanco and Pedro Serrano, testified two years ago in Floyd v. City of New York, the landmark case that led to court-mandated reform of how the NYPD conducts its stop-and-frisk police tactics.

Polanco, who was an 8-year police veteran suspended at the time of his trial, told a federal jury that Bronx police brass threatened that he would have to "drive the sergeant" or deliver pizzas if he refused to participate in quotas.

His secret recordings of roll call meetings played in court captured an officer allegedly warning the rank-and-file not to oppose the quota policy.

"Forget about the drama and all the political bullshit and everything that goes on in the fucking command 'cause you're not going to win," an officer said in one recording. "You're fighting against the current."

His colleague, Pedro Serrano, choked back tears on the witness stand when speaking about reconciling his misgivings about the orders from police brass with the example he tried to set as a father, during his March 2013 testimony in that case.

"I have children. I try to be a decent person," Serrano said, faltering as he grew emotional. "Excuse me, whenever I talk about my kids, I cry."

Such testimony led a federal judge to issue two court orders forcing officers to wear body cameras during stops, document their street stops more thoroughly and submit to a court monitor.

Then-mayor Michael Bloomberg opposed these reforms, but his successor Bill de Blasio dropped his appeal of the verdict to keep a campaign promise seeking to repair the NYPD's relationship with minority communities.

But De Blasio's administration has failed to stamp out police quotas, the new class action complaint states.

When he replaced Ray Kelly in January 2014, De Blasio's police commissioner William Bratton said in an official video: "I want to focus on the quality of police actions, with less emphasis on our numbers and more emphasis on our actual impact," the complaint notes.

But reports of NYPD quotas persisted, most recently in a Feb. 20, 2005, article in the New York Post, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit estimates that there are "approximately 6,000 Hispanic and 5,000 African-American police officers who have been and will be affected by the imposition of the illegal quota system." Up to "thousands of these officers" have faced "unlawful conditions" in retaliation for failure to meet the illegal quota numbers, the complaint continues.

New York City, Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton and other officers face eight causes of action including human rights, employment discrimination and labor law violations.

The officers seek an injunction and unspecified punitive damages.

They are represented by Chukwuemeka Nwokoro of of the Manhattan-based firm Nwokoro & Scola.

The New York City Law Department did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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