As the federal court battle over the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy enters its second day, the Nation has unearthed an explosive excerpt from a secret audio recording that's expected to play a key role in the trial. The NYPD's union, the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, has been a vocal opponent of the department's use of quotas, even taking out a full page ad in the Daily News slamming the department for pressuring officers to meet quotas. But this recording suggests the PBA has actually been on board with quotas the whole time.
“I spoke to the CO [commanding officer] for about an hour-and-a-half,” a Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegate says in the audio recording, captured at a Bronx precinct roll call meeting. “20-and-1. 20-and-1 is what the union is backing up… They spoke to the [Union] trustees. And that’s what they want, they want 20-and-1.” 20-and-1 means 20 summonses and one arrest per month.
One veteran NYPD officer tells The Nation, “It’s a quota, and they [the Union] agreed to it. It’s crazy.” The recording was made in 2009 by officer Adil Polanco, who says he was retaliated against after going public with the quota demands. Polanco and other officers have long claimed that the quotas force them to make frivolous, baseless arrests and summonses, and that they are threatened with loss of vacation time and days off if they don't comply.
Part of the recording was aired on WABC in 2010, but not the part featuring the PBA delegate. In the secretly-recorded tape, you can also hear an officer tell his subordinates, "If you think 1 and 20 is breaking your balls, guess what you're going to be doing. You're going to be doing a lot more, a lot more than what they're saying. Next week, 25 and 1, 35 and 1, and until you decide to quit this job to go to work at a Pizza Hut, this is what you're going to be doing till then."
"If you don’t meet the quota, they will find [activity] for you,” another veteran officer explained to The Nation. “The sergeant will put you in his car and drive you around until whatever he sees he will stop and tell you to make an arrest or write a summons, even if you didn’t observe what he said it was. The sergeant told me to write two minorities for blocking pedestrian traffic, but they were not blocking pedestrian traffic.”
The PBA did not immediately respond to our request for comment on the recording, which you can hear in full at The Nation. UPDATE: Asked about the controversial recording, PBA spokesman Al O’Leary tells us:
“The PBA has been consistently and firmly opposed to quotas for police activities including arrests, summonses and stop and frisks. These are all effective tools for maintaining order when they are left to the discretion of individual police officers but become problematic when officers are forced to meet quotas. This union has sought and obtained changes to state law making quotas for all police activities illegal. We have sued and forced an individual commanding officer to stop the use of illegal quotas and will continue to be vigilant and vocal in our opposition to police activity quotas.”
O'Leary would not comment on the newly-revealed recording.