March 6, 2014

More Proof of NYPD Quotas

Yet more evidence has emerged that the NYPD has an established quota system in place, further undermining one of the worst kept secrets in New York City. According to today's Daily News, Police Officer Bryan Rothwell testified at a NYPD hearing that, in his unit, "your goal is to get about 20 criminal summonses and at least — I believe at that time it was, I think, two arrests per month.”  These 20 and 2 figures are in line with statements from other officers who have testified to the NYPD's unwritten quotas.

For instance, police officer Adrian Schoolcraft, whose lawsuit is currently pending in federal court in Manhattan, recorded supervisors in his Brooklyn precinct demanding at least 20 summonses every month, and threatening reprisals against those who came up short. Similarly, Craig Matthews brought actions based on being disciplined for failing to meet quotas and to have the quota program declared unlawful, and officers Pedro Serrano and Adhyl Polanco have testified that quotas were in place in their Bronx station house.

At the risk of sounding like a heretic, I will confess to believing that target goals (ok, quotas) are useful in the workplace. They give employees a concrete understanding of what is expected, and set readily understood goals. The rationale behind precinct commanders using quotas to define expectations is not inherently wrong.

Where quotas become problematic is when blind adherence becomes the norm. Unfortunately, within the NYPD the numbers often become a cheap substitute for meaningful performance evaluations. This starts at the top, with pressure on commanders to meet specific targets. Not surprisingly, these demands are passed down the chain of command, so that the patrol officers (and detectives in the OCCB divisions) are ultimately the last ones squeezed, and they well understand that nothing matters more than their numbers.

As a result, as Bryan Rothwell testified recently, officers end up taking actions they know they shouldn't. In my experience, I have seen many, many bad arrests that flow from choices made by officers in order to boost numbers and create the appearance of productivity. By defining and evaluating officers strictly by their statistics, the NYPD is effectively incentivising misconduct and implicitly bringing about more than a small number of bad arrests, unlawful stop and frisks, and other, similar, misconduct.

No remedy for this pattern of practice will be found until the NYPD's senior commanders are willing to acknowledge and modify their ill-disguised quota program.

(Village Voice: Running Scared)
(NYPD Confidential: So Who's Crazy Now?)
( NYCLU files lawsuit)

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