For more than two years, Adrian Schoolcraft secretly recorded every roll call at the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn and captured his superiors urging police officers to do two things in order to manipulate the “stats” that the department is under pressure to produce: Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports.
Arresting bystanders made it look like the department was efficient, while artificially reducing the amount of serious crime made the commander look good.
In October 2009, Schoolcraft met with NYPD investigators for three hours and detailed more than a dozen cases of crime reports being manipulated in the district. Three weeks after that meeting—which was supposed to have been kept secret from Schoolcraft’s superiors—his precinct commander and a deputy chief ordered Schoolcraft to be dragged from his apartment and forced into the Jamaica Hospital psychiatric ward for six days.
In the wake of our series, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered an investigation into Schoolcraft’s claims. By June 2010, that investigation produced a report that the department has tried to keep secret for nearly two years.
The Voice has obtained that 95-page report, and it shows that the NYPD confirmed Schoolcraft’s allegations. In other words, at the same time that police officials were attacking Schoolcraft’s credibility, refusing to pay him, and serving him with administrative charges, the NYPD was sitting on a document that thoroughly vindicated his claims.
NYPD Kicks Door Before Shooting Unarmed Teen
Surveillance video outside the Bronx home of Ramarley Graham shows police struggling to enter the residence and kicking in a door moments before an NYPD officer shot and killed the unarmed 18-year-old in his bathroom. While surveillance footage from a neighboring home showed Graham running down the street with police pursuing, this footage obtained by WPIX 11 shows Graham casually entering his house. Seconds later two NYPD officers with their guns drawn attempt to break down the door.
Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters on Friday that the officer who shot Graham, 30-year-old Richard Haste, shouted “Show me your hands!” and “Gun! Gun!” at the teenager before shooting him in the chest in his bathroom. But the only other person in the apartment at the time, Graham’s 58-year-old grandmother Patricia Hartley, told the Times through friend of the family Carlton Berkley that she heard no such thing. Additionally, residents of the apartment dispute the NYPD’s assertion that the officers announced themselves when forcibly entering their home.
Also at issue is the manner in which Hartley was treated: Berkley says she was held at the 47th Precinct for seven hours so that she could give police a statement. “She gave it against her will,” Berkley, a retired police detective says. “She didn’t want to speak to police.” Paul Browne, the NYPD’s spokesperson, said that Hartley was “naturally upset but cooperative,” and said she actually spent five and a half hours speaking with police.
Commissioner Kelly told reporters on Friday that Hartley “certainly should have been shown a sensitivity on that issue. I would hope that she was. If not…we’ll certainly investigate.” Officer Haste, a three-year veteran, and another Sergeant who was in the stairwell, have both been placed on desk duty.
Despite twice reporting over radio communications that Graham had a gun, police searched Graham’s apartment and other residences in the home and found no firearms. Graham was killed in his bathroom, allegedly dumping a small amount of marijuana into the toilet. Police accounts that Graham had struggled proved to be false. Commissioner Kelly told reporters that the case may be handed over to a grand jury to determine whether a crime was committed.
“Why would you break in a house and shoot a young man and kill him?” Rev. Al Sharpton said yesterday. “You cannot get to a conclusion without starting with the premise. The premise is wrong. They had no business breaking in the house.”
The must-read of the weekend:
WHEN I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.
Agree with Sam. Another key line: “Maybe blacks and brown people look more furtive, whatever that means.”
“…police cite the vague ‘furtive movements’ as the reason for the stop. Maybe blacks and brown people look more furtive, whatever that means.”
Investigators have been infiltrating Muslim student groups at Brooklyn College and other schools in the city, monitoring their Internet activity and placing undercover agents in their ranks, police documents obtained by The Associated Press show. Legal experts say the operation may have broken a 19-year-old pact with the colleges and violated U.S. privacy laws, jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal research money and student aid.
The infiltration was part of a secret NYPD intelligence-gathering effort that put entire Muslim communities under scrutiny. Police photographed restaurants and grocery stores that cater to Muslims and built databases showing where people shopped, got their hair cut and prayed. The AP reported on the secret campaign in a series of stories beginning in August.
The majority of Islamic terrorism cases involve young men, and infiltrating student groups gave police access to that demographic. Alarmed professors and students, however, say it smacks of the FBI spying conducted on college campuses in the 1960s. They are calling on college administrators to investigate.
The NYPD is having a great year!
As the NYPD has struggled through a brutal month, its main mouthpiece and Commissioner Ray Kelly’s most trusted adviser, Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne, has been called out for playing fast and loose with the truth in four separate high-profile cases.
September’s incidents might mark the end of the NYPD’s scandal-proof status.
On September 5, two black public officials at the West Indian Day Parade were bullied and handcuffed by police officers who refused to let them walk into a function at the Brooklyn Museum. Browne told reporters that the officers acted after “a crowd formed and an unknown individual punched a police captain on the scene.” He denied that the men had been arrested. One of the men, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams, called that account “a bald-faced lie” and mocked Browne’s “ghost puncher,” about whom nothing has been heard since.
Just off of the parade route, 56-year-old grandmother Denise Gay was caught in the crossfire as eight police officers traded fire with career criminal Leroy Webster. Browne initially told reporters that three witnesses, including Gay’s daughter, had told police that Webster or the man Webster had shot earlier had fired the fatal shot. But the daughter, Tashmaya Gay, denied having said that, telling the Post that “the cops killed my mother,” and “there’s no way in hell” the fatal bullet could have been fired by Webster.
A few days later, a plainclothes detective in Inwood arresting a suspected pot dealer shot and killed 43-year-old grandfather John Collado. According to Browne, the undercover officer had clearly identified himself, yet Collado, who belonged to a pro-cop Facebook group and wasn’t involved in the drug buy, nonetheless put the detective in a choke hold. “The cops who responded described [the detective] as barely conscious,” Browne said. “He was nearly choked out, and his limbs were numb.” But the family’s lawyer, Patrick Brackley, told reporters that he has seen surveillance video showing that the detective hadn’t identified himself, and that while Collado was trying to break up what he thought was just a fight between his neighbor and a stranger, he was not choking the detective.
Then, last week, the pepper spraying of nonviolent Occupy Wall Street protesters by Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna quickly became a national story—in large part because of Browne’s hotly disputed version of the events. Browne contended that the spray was used “sparingly” and “after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier—something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.” Other videos of the incident then surfaced and showed no such confrontation and no warning at all from Bologna and his using the spray again a few seconds later.
Browne did not respond to several phone calls and e-mails asking for comment on his recent statements. That no-response is typical of the Bloomberg NYPD’s approach to “public information.”
A longtime observer of the NYPD—from within and outside—calls Browne’s operation “the commissioner’s image office,” and adds: “Browne answers only to Kelly, and the two of them are the only voices that speak for the department. The Public Information Office has a very low opinion of the public.”
A prosecutor who has known Browne for years said the mouthpiece “will zealously protect Kelly, who is still considering throwing his hat into the ring for the mayoralty,” and added: “He’s become more than a spokesperson—it’s not surprising he’s gone across and beyond spinning.”
Despite or perhaps because of that approach to information and message control, the 70-year-old Kelly has been one of the city’s most popular officials, with approval ratings well over 60 percent for most of the past decade. Although he’d prefer a federal appointment, Kelly hasn’t discouraged the idea that he still might step into the mayoral race if that falls through.
With the crime numbers staying down and no successful terror attack, not to mention the strong support of Mayor Bloomberg, the public has shrugged off Kelly’s past excesses, including the 2004 Republican National Convention, when nearly 2,000 protesters and passersby were arrested and held at Pier 57 with little semblance of due process, which eventually cost the city millions in settlements and legal fees. (Bologna himself is the subject of a pending suit alleging false arrest and civil rights violations.)
Meanwhile, millions of stop-and-frisks have led to hundreds of thousands of unjustified marijuana-possession arrests that flouted state law. An abrupt about-face by Kelly in an “operations order” sent out in September appears to have finally put a stop to that policy after years of obfuscation and silence from the department. The department’s arrest quotas were finally exposed last year by the Voice via tapes secretly recorded by Officer Adrian Schoolcraft. The NYPD’s attempts to discredit Schoolcraft included having officers show up at his apartment and forcibly commit him to a psych ward. Also there, according to Schoolcraft, was Browne.
Although Browne, who became chief spokesman in 2004 and has worked closely with Kelly at numerous posts since the 1990s, has dodged criticism before, that shield is crumbling. The department has taken a series of hard public hits, also including a spate of shootings in August, a spike in the subway crime rate, a series of stories exposing the formerly secret Demographics Unit (whose existence Browne had previously denied), and a ticket-fixing scandal that has led to the indictment of 17 officers. That scandal is widening—it points to cops working with drug dealers and to members of the Internal Affairs Bureau tipping off subjects of the probe as well as triggering a citywide ticketing slowdown among the rank and file.
“It’s really anti-democratic to think the department can ladle out the information it wants to in dribs and drabs,” the longtime observer says. “And their contempt for the press and the City Council has, if anything, increased over the years.
“That the guy would just be throwing out misinformation over a month I think comes from a sense of, ‘Who’s going to catch us, and who’s going to punish us if they do?’”