MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City will not have to face free-speech claims from a police whistle-blower, but correspondence between the police commissioner and a city councilman will come to light, a federal judge ruled.
In May 2010, Adrian Schoolcraft gave the Village Voice more than a year’s worth of unauthorized tapes recording roll calls in the 81st Precinct of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
As reported by the Voice, the tapes reveal “that precinct bosses threaten street cops if they don’t make their quotas of arrests and stop-and-frisks, but also tell them not to take certain robbery reports in order to manipulate crime statistics.”
NPR’s “This American Life” later reported that Schoolcraft faced retaliation for releasing the tapes. The episode aired audio of Deputy Chief Michael Marino and other officers entering Schoolcraft’s home and ordering him to be institutionalized.
On Aug. 10, 2010, Schoolcraft sued New York City, Marino, and several officers and doctors for nearly 20 claims, including false arrest, abuse of process, medical malpractice and negligence.
He sought $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
When discovery began in May 2011, Schoolcraft sought leave to add a free-speech violation to his complaint and to access correspondence between New York City Councilman Peter Vallone, D-Queens, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Vallone, known for his vocal support of the NYPD, is not a party to the lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet turned down the new charge on June 13, but ordered Vallone to cough up the correspondence.
The Supreme Court’s bitterly contested 5-4 ruling in the 2006 case of Garcetti v. Ceballos doomed Schoolcraft’s free speech claim, the order states.
Finding that government employees have no protections for speech that is “pursuant to” their jobs, Garcetti threw out the claim of a Los Angeles deputy district attorney who said he was passed over for a promotion because he criticized a bad warrant.
Whistle-blower attorney Steven Kohn told Mother Jones that the Garcetti decision was “the single biggest setback” to such cases in the past 25 years, and estimated that the decision would doom more than 90 percent of them.
In the second half of the order, Sweet said Vallone could not quash the subpoena because he represented a different precinct than the one that Schoolcraft patrolled.
“With respect to Councilman Vallone’s contention that the discovery requests are irrelevant because Councilman Vallone represents an area within the confines of the 114th Precinct rather than the 81st Precinct where plaintiff was stationed, it must be noted that the allegations in the complaint are not limited to the 81st Precinct,” the order states. “Instead, plaintiff alleges that the policy about which he complained affected the entire NYPD, and Councilman Vallone’s statements to the press concerning this policy suggest Councilman Vallone to be possession of information related to that citywide policy.”