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Secret Recordings Played in NYPD Frisk Trial

MANHATTAN (CN) - An NYPD officer testified Wednesday that his bosses retaliated for his blowing the whistle on quotas by prosecuting him for false statements on forms that his patrol commander forced him to sign.

The New York Police Department has stopped and frisked 5 million people -- nearly 90 percent of them black or Latino, the NYCLU said on the eve of the trial, which began this week.

Attorneys for the city claim that the data skew that way because crime disproportionately involves those ethnic groups.

But Adhyl Polanco, a veteran of eight years on the force, testified that the real motive is money -- and that his secret recordings of police roll calls prove it.

Polanco in late summer 2009 taped his patrol commander, supervising sergeants and union delegate at the Bronx's 41st Precinct, speaking directly and indirectly about a policy of "20 and one."

The numbers referred to 20 summonses and one arrest, Polanco said. Supervisors later added a requirement of "five 250s," a shorthand for street stops, Polanco said.

Attorneys for plaintiffs challenging the stop-and-frisk tactics played Polanco's faint and scratchy recordings in court Wednesday.

Polanco identified the voice on the first track as Officer Angel Herran, the union delegate on his squad, saying, "They want 20 and one. How? I don't know. Maybe you're horning for parkers, so you write all 20 parkers, I don't know."

The same speaker complained about having to "adjudicate fucking CDs on the activities." CDs refer to "command discipline," such as lost vacation days to punish low numbers, Polanco testified.

"This is what this job's coming to, you know?" Herran griped, according to the transcript.

Another speaker, believed to be Inspector Donald McHugh, the precinct commander, tells the squad that headquarters "lit up" -- or screamed -- at the Bronx chief for low numbers in the borough.

Throughout this recording, the speaker enigmatically refers to "giv[ing] them the business," which Polanco said is slang for summonses.

"It's a shame that they call it a business," he added.

The voice of Lt. Andrew Valenzano, the platoon commander, trails off on a recording as he refers to "people over there on the bikes, carrying the bags," apparently as potential targets of "good stops."

Valenzano never explained why they should be stopped, Polanco said.

Another speaker, whom Polanco identifies as Officer Gaetano Fundaro, allegedly warned officers who opposed the orders.

"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," Fundaro said. "You're fighting against the current."

Though that statement was made at a roll call, Polanco testified that he believed the remark referred to him, because his cover had been blown as the author of an anonymous letter to the integrity control officer, or ICO.

After the ICO did not respond to the anonymous letter, Polanco said, his attorney began discussions with ABC News.

Later, Polanco said, he sent the Internal Affairs Bureau evidence supporting his earlier claims, again anonymously.

Explaining why he hid his identity, Polanco said, "You've seen what happened to Adrian Schoolcraft." Schoolcraft, another NYPD whistleblower, was forcibly institutionalized, allegedly in a campaign to discredit him. His case is pending in the same court.

Polanco said he knew he had been identified as the source of the complaints when someone wrote "rat" next to his name in the roster.

"Basically, I'm a single officer, a minority officer, going against the department," he said.

He said that he revealed his identity after a Dec. 12, 2009 incident that led to his suspension.

That day, he worked what he called a punitive shift at an illegal traffic checkpoint with no flares, cones, stopping patterns or law enforcement purpose - strictly to run up his numbers.

During that shift, he testified, he needed to call an ambulance for his partner, who had turned pale and complained of "very strong chest pains."

When the ambulance arrived, EMTs put an oxygen mask on his partner, who was turning blue, Polanco said.

He said that Lt. Valenzano ordered him to get back to his post.

Polanco said that he replied: "You can do what you please. I'm going with my partner."

Valenzano then assaulted him grabbing his chest in an effort to wrest away his gun and shield to suspend him, Polanco said.

Brenda Cooke, an attorney for the city, claimed that Polanco ignored orders from multiple officers, shoved Valenzano and spouted racist slurs.

Scoffing at the allegation, Polanco asked, "How am I going to scream racial [abuse] if I have a recording?"

He used the tape of his fight with Valenzano to defend himself in an administrative hearing, but it was not admissible for his testimony Wednesday.

Polanco said he pushed Velanzano in self-defense.

"He didn't have the authorization to put his hand on me," Polanco said, adding later, "I didn't punch him as I should have."

After this incident, the NYPD suspended Polanco on perjury charges stemming from what he called phony summonses that Valenzano forced him to write.

One summons accused a pedestrian of walking a dog without a license, though Polanco said he never saw the pooch.

"I told the person to fight it and bring it to court," Polanco said.

A second summons, for "disorderly conduct," was against a black person whom Polanco said he did not see at the time of the stop.

After three and a half years, his administrative hearing for false statements still has not been resolved.

"They know I'm innocent," Polanco said.

When asked why he risked retaliation, he said, "I'm a father. I have three kids. I grew up in the Heights. I grew up in the hood. ... I don't need my kid to get shot by a cop who was chasing him to fill out a 250," referring to the stop-and-frisk form.

He said he did not oppose street stops in principle.

"It's a great tool, and we need it," he said.

The lawsuit seeks to reform the practice, not to end it.

Depositions by two fellow officers in the 41st Precinct were read into the record Wednesday.

Inspector McHugh, the precinct commander, is expected to take the stand this week.

Lead plaintiff David Floyd and three others claim they were subjected to unconstitutional stops and searches. They seek an injunction against New York City to stop the NYPD from violating the constitutional rights of the class. In practice, that would probably mean court oversight. They are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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