A scathing four part series came out of the Village Voice over the past several months, a report that has exposed a few precincts within the NYPD as being motivated not by public safety or community wellbeing, but by numbers. The series, being known as the NYPD Tapes has revealed what many officers knew and many New Yorkers suspected—things aren’t always as morally upstanding as officials would like you to think within the walls of the precinct stations.
The NYPD Tapes refers to where the information for the Village Voice series came from—audio recordings of police business in Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct, recorded by one officer who is now known as a “whistleblower” and unfortunately for some, a “snitch”.
The recordings made of 117 roll calls over a period spanning over one year revealed that police were repeatedly encouraged to get their numbers up, increase their arrests, and boost their stop and frisks. Officers were more or less told to ignore certain criminal reports and a act on chosen others. All of this was done in an effort to control numbers.
CompStat is the system by which the NYPD tracks their arrests, crime rates, and general police activity. In essence it’s a way for police officials to staff correctly, to see where their impact is being felt, and to track how their precinct is performing in contrast to others.
Police supervisors are under pressure to have CompStat figures that show high productivity but low crime. This gives the appearance of officers doing their jobs and keeping crime down as a result. The pressure on these statistics, however, has had some ill effects.
Stop and frisks show productivity on the part of the officer. Though it’s not always the case, they give the appearance of an officer that is out in the community, keeping things safe. On the other hand, fewer reported crimes show a lower crime rate in the area. These two factors led to officers basically being told to keep their stop and frisks up while downplaying or completely ignoring crimes reported by citizens.
The entire series is lengthy and very in depth, though one that is very interesting. It shows how a well-intentioned program (CompStat) can lead to real perversions of justice. When officers risk being penalized for acting with integrity and upholding good ethics, they often err on the side of job security.
Although the report only talks about two precincts within the city, the problem is likely far more widespread and you only have to be the subject of an unnecessary stop and frisk to get that feeling as well.
The NYPD has weathered many controversies over the last several decades. Trust in the police isn’t something that comes easy for people in the city and others in similar communities. This is definitely true when you are facing criminal charges.
If you’re facing charges and unsure of the prosecutor’s case against you, it can be scary–will the officer on the stand tell the truth? It’s now more than ever that you need a tough legal advocate on your side.