Friday, September 29, 2023
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Second NYPD Whistleblower|Tells Why He Taped Brass

MANHATTAN (CN) - A second Bronx police officer on Thursday told a federal judge why he recorded his superiors pressuring him to stop and frisk more young black and Latino men.

"Well, judge. It's very simple. I have children. I try to be a decent person," Officer Pedro Serrano said, as choked back tears on the witness stand. "Excuse me," he said. "Whenever I talk about my kids, I cry."

Serrano, a short, bald, round 8-year veteran of the NYPD, was the second officer to acknowledge at trial that he secretly taped his supervisors.

Officer Adhyl Polanco, also from a Bronx precinct, testified earlier this week and some of his tapes were played in court.

Plaintiffs in the federal class action against New York City seek reforms to address racial disparities in the Police Department's street stops.

The first attempt at reform happened came 14 years ago in a similar lawsuit, which ended in a 2003 settlement requiring the NYPD to record every stop on a form called a UF-250.

Study of those forms indicated that roughly 87 percent of the roughly 5 million people who have been stopped were black or Latino.

The four lead plaintiffs in Floyd v. City of New York, who claim the NYPD racially profiled them, finished testifying this week. They were followed by police officers who were dissatisfied with how the program has been implemented.

The NYPD claims the racial disparities in the stops stem from its "proactive" policing of high-crime neighborhoods under what it call the CompStat program. But at least three whistleblowing officers, doubting the official explanation, have recorded how police brass discuss the program behind closed doors.

The whistleblowers include Officers Adrian Schoolcraft, from Brooklyn's 81st Precinct; Adhyl Polanco, from the Bronx's 41st Precinct; and Serrano, from the neighboring 40th Precinct.

Serrano on Thursday unveiled a June 30, 2010 recording of a female lieutenant, his precinct's integrity control officer, tell officers she's "looking for five" - which Serrano described as a quota for criminal summonses.

Later in the recording, the lieutenant apparently urges officers only to target so-called "Impact Zones:" designated high-crime areas based on computer-mapped data.

"Don't write activity outside the zone," she said, according to the transcript.

Later, she added: "St. Mary's Park, go crazy in there. Go crazy in there. I don't care if everybody writes everything in there. That's not a problem."

A month later, Serrano recorded another lieutenant, Jemal Doute, making a passing reference to "five-five-five," allegedly a veiled reference to quotas for summonses, arrests and patrols at public housing.

In 2011, Serrano's score dropped one point in every category on his yearly evaluation forms, down to 3 on a 5-point scale. The evaluations rate officers in 28 categories, including their integrity, imagination, reasoning and appearance.

"I think most of this is wrong, except for physical fitness," the pudgy Serrano said, to laughter in the court. "I'll accept a '3.'"

He said he was not a "hero" or a "zero," but "somewhere in the middle."

During cross-examination, city attorney Brenda Cooke said that placed him in the middle of the scale.

Serrano said that his supervisor acknowledged that the score had more to do with his numbers than his abilities.

He testified that Capt. Martine Materasso had told him that low "activity" was half of the reason for his downgrade.


Serrano testified that he replied that was an illegal quota.

Materasso leaned back on her chair, smirked and said, "I can do that," according to Serrano. He said she told him that the NYPD's implementation of Operations Order No. 52 gave her that new authority.

A copy of that order, projected onto a screen in the courtroom, stated: "Department managers can and must meet performance goals."

During direct examination, attorney Jonathan Moore asked: "As a police officer, how did you interpret that?"

Serrano replied: "It says, 'Quota, quota, quota, quota and quota.'"

After he complained to the Internal Affairs Board, Serrano said, someone shook up his locker and vandalized it with "rat stickers."

He joked that he was upset that the stuff inside the locker got "messed up" from the shaking, but that the stickers were "cute."

In 2012, he executed more arrests and more summonses, but says his evaluations stayed the same because he performed only two stop-and-frisks all year.

One supervisor, Sgt. Monroe, sent him a text "u need more 250," shorthand for street stops, evidence showed.

Appealing again this year, Serrano says, he recorded his meeting in February with Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormick, who told him that his numbers might be appropriate for Central Park. "[B]ut this ain't Central Park," McCormick said, according to the transcript.

Last year, the 40th Precinct experienced double-digit drops in rates of murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries and car thefts, though other grand larcenies rose sharply, according to the NYPD's most recent CompStat reports.

Despite the general decline in violent crime, robberies, assaults and grand larcenies still averaged more than one a day, and McCormick told Serrano that his low street stop rate showed a lack of initiative in lowering these crimes.

"We had a 66- or 68-year-old lady who got shot coming out of an elevator from the church at 10 in the morning," McCormick said. "It's a very violent location, and I just don't see what you're doing. It seems like you are purposefully not doing anything to help prevent the shootings, the robberies and grand larcenies," according to a transcript.

The argument gets heated after McCormick tells Serrano that he should confront the problem by stopping "the right people at the right time, the right location."

"And who are the right people?" Serrano asks.

Through the next several pages of transcript, McCormick denies any racial implication until he says, "I don't have any trouble telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21."

Criminologists disagree about the effectiveness of stop-and-frisk in preventing violent crime.

Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Fagan found that guns are seized in only 0.15 percent of street stops, but partisans of the "broken windows theory" of policing claim that the tactic deters crime by signaling a law enforcement presence in the area.

Two sets of stops that Serrano participated in illustrate that divide.

In one, Serrano said, he was driving with a supervising sergeant who ordered him to "summons those two," indicating two young minority men.

"For what?" Serrano asked.

Not getting a satisfying answer, he said, "I explained to them that I was violating their rights," and told them to fight the summonses in court. Serrano said he scratched out his name as the observer and filled in the sergeant's.

Back at the station, the sergeant noticed the change and screamed, "This son of a bitch put my name on it," Serrano recounted.

Another time, however, Serrano criticized stops in front of the Bronx's Patterson Houses projects as unjustified, not knowing that 45 people there had outstanding warrants for dealing crack, according to Cooke, the city lawyer.

She said that one of the young men frisked was carrying a baseball bat.

Serrano said he could not confirm or deny the city's account of the incident, about which his supervisor is expected to testify later in the trial.

Besides questioning his judgment, Cooke attacked Serrano's claims of retaliation.

Although Serrano complained about getting an undesirable post in the Rockaways, Cooke noted that he was sent there after Hurricane Sandy walloped the neighborhood last year.

Serrano also claims the precinct discriminated against him when it denied him a day off after he got into a car accident near his Westchester home during a major snowstorm. He said he "begged" the desk assignment officer for the day off because the treacherous road conditions made him swerve into a ditch and barely miss hitting a woman.

He said he came into work anyway after the desk officer replied, "I'm sorry, but there's no excuses."

Though Cooke noted that police work gets heavy during extreme weather, Serrano claims that another officer on his squad who lives near him was allowed to stay home.

He said he was assigned tasks such as watching a labor strike and processing a DWI, usually reserved for rookies because they involve a lot of waiting. He also complained of getting "foot posts" during the winter.

"Who wants to be standing in the street when it's extremely cold?" he said.

Tapes from a roll call in Brooklyn back up Serrano's claims that "foot posts" are considered a low-level job in the NYPD.

In multiple recordings, Sgt. Jean Delafuente jokes about the winter weather before telling officers that the best way to get out of foot posts is to "grab a collar," "use 250s," and "get fucking riff-raff off the corners."

Officer Schoolcraft, who recorded these statements, is not taking the stand because he has a case pending in the same federal district. He alleges more extreme retaliation: being forcibly institutionalized in a psychiatric ward.

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