Justice

NYPD Officers Sue Saying They’re Being Punished For Refusing To Discriminate

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More than two years after a class action lawsuit exposed the quota policy behind the NYPD’s rampant use of stop-and-frisk, new lawsuits filed this week allege the system requiring officers to make a certain number of arrests and issue a specified number of tickets and summons, is still in effect. And officers of color are threatened and punished for speaking out against it.

For years, the de facto quota policies in the city have contributed to racial profiling in the form of unlawful stops. Between 2002 and 2011, 90 percent of the people subjected to stops were black or Latino. Close to 90 percent resulted in no arrests or summons, and the majority of arrests — made as a result of the stops — were for marijuana.

In a class action lawsuit filed Monday, 12 black and Latino officers claim the NYPD is violating New York State’s Labor Law by implementing precinct quotas for issuing “summons, tickets or number of arrests” and penalizing officers of color who refuse to follow the discriminatory policy. They are harassed by their peers and superiors, “threatened with termination,” denied benefits, and transferred to less desirable positions. The officers are also given poorer evaluations than white cops, who more willingly target communities of color, as a way to force them to meet the quotas.

A second suit filed on Tuesday by one of the 12 officers, Adhyl Polanco, says his colleagues have retaliated against him since 2009, for revealing the quota system to the media and detailing widespread corruption among the city’s officers. He was called a “fucking bitch” by one of his colleagues, and has been suspended, placed on mental watch, and put on probation.

But much like the punitive measures Polanco has faced for exposing the quota system, additional plaintiffs involved in Monday’s lawsuit detailed specific acts of punishment and backlash for their defiance in the past few years. For instance, Sandy Gonzalez was stationed alone in a dangerous neighborhood in cold temperatures, as a form of punishment for refusing to make an arrest and issue 20 summonses in one month. When Puerto Rican officer Pedro Serrano complained about the discriminatory policing tactics used in his precinct, he was told by a superior that people in his precinct, many of whom are also Puerto Rican, are animals. Serrano has also received poor performance evaluations for reporting misconduct and blasting the illegal quotas. On one occasion, he saw an officer unzip a black man’s zipper and touch his penis and buttocks.

In July, city attorney Elinor Sutton charged the NYPD with destroying evidence about hundreds of thousands of summonses issued to meet city-wide quotas. With the help of whistle blowers, she has obtained emails and text messages that have since been deleted. She also points to the department’s official document-shredding policy.

But the NYPD still denies that the quota system is ongoing. “There are no numerical enforcement quotas established by the NYPD,” claimed Deputy Commissioner and spokesman Stephen Davis. “Performance evaluations are conducted for all department employees based on an assessment of their duties, responsibilities and specific conditions of their assignments.”

Still, the plaintiffs’ lawsuits suggest the policies still exist and are used to justify unlawful stops.

In 2014, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced his commitment to slowing down the stop-and-frisk program used to meet mandatory quotas, and has since slammed his predecessor for creating hostility between officers in black and brown communities. “The No. 1 issue we heard over and over again was that the black community—rich, poor, middle class—was concerned about this issue,” he recently told the New Yorker. “The commissioner, whom they liked quite a bit, and Mayor Bloomberg, who polled well for a long time, just weren’t listening. They were kind of tone-deaf to this issue. So we worked really hard, myself and Mayor de Blasio, to respond.”