Adrian Schoolcraft

schoolcraft

Adrian Schoolcraft (b. 1976) was a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer who secretly recorded police conversations from 2008 to 2009. He brought these tapes to NYPD investigators in October 2009 as evidence of corruption and wrongdoing within the department. He used the tapes as evidence that arrest quotas were leading to police abuses such as wrongful arrests, while the emphasis of fighting crime sometimes resulted in underreporting of crimes to keep the numbers down.

After voicing his concerns, Schoolcraft was reportedly harassed and reassigned to a desk job. After he left work early one day, a swat unit illegally entered his apartment, physically abducted him and forcibly admitted him to a psychiatric facility, where he was held against his will for six days. In 2010, he released the audio recordings to ‘The Village Voice,’ leading to the reporting of a multi-part series titled ‘The NYPD Tapes.’

In 2012 ‘The Village Voice’ reported that a 2010 unpublished report of an internal NYPD investigation found the 81st precinct had evidence of quotas and underreporting. In 2010 Schoolcraft filed a lawsuit against the NYPD and Jamaica Hospital. Schoolcraft was born in Texas; he joined the US Navy at age 17 and served for four years on the USS Blue Ridge near Japan. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and other decorations while on active duty. He was honorably discharged in 1997 and returned to Texas to work for Motorola.[2]

In 2002 he moved to New York, wishing to be closer to his parents (who had moved to New York state), particularly because his mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Driven both by his mother’s desire that he become an officer, and by a wish to respond to the September 11 attacks on New York City, he applied to join the NYPD. He passed the entrance exam and joined the force two weeks later. Schoolcraft drove his mother to chemotherapy appointments in Albany until she died in 2003.

Soon after joining the force, Schoolcraft was deployed to Precinct 75 in Brooklyn; after 14 months he was transferred to Precinct 81 in Bedford–Stuyvesant. Schoolcraft drank alcohol much less frequently than his peers, and became known for rescuing abandoned animals. After a few years on the force, he began to raise issues about understaffing and overtime, saying that the precinct had too few officers to do a good job. He received the Meritorious Police Duty Medal in 2006, and in 2008 was cited for his ‘dedication to the New York City Police Department and to the City of New York.’ Brooklynites who lived in the area patrolled by Schoolcraft reported that he was the only officer they knew, because he was the only one interested in conversing with them.

Schoolcraft began recording his conversations in order to respond to public complaints. ‘I worked in a black community, you can think of the word I was accused of using,’ he said. He subsequently decided to also record police conversations. The tapes include conversations related to the issues of arrest quotas and investigations. Schoolcraft says an overemphasis on arrests leads to wrongful arrests and bad police work. A recording from 2008 includes precinct commander Steven Mauriello ordering a raid on 120 Chauncy St.: ‘Everybody goes. I don’t care. You’re on 120 Chauncey and they’re popping champagne? Yoke ’em. Put them through the system. They got bandannas on, arrest them. Everybody goes tonight. They’re underage? Fuck it.’ He orders: ‘Bring ’em in. Lodge them. You’re going to go back out and process it later on.’

Schoolcraft reports being harassed, particularly in 2009, after he began to voice his concerns within the precinct. He was told he needed to increase arrest numbers, and received a bad evaluation. The next day, he found a paper in his locker reading: ‘If you don’t like your job, maybe you should get another job.’ Schoolcraft reports that the Department directed him toward psychological treatment rather than taking his concerns seriously. When he discussed issues like understaffing and stop-and-frisk with NYPD psychologist Catherine Lamstein, she directed him to surrender his weapons. Schoolcraft was reassigned to a desk job.

In October 2009, Schoolcraft disclosed his allegations to NYPD investigators in a meeting that he understood was to be confidential. He discussed underreporting of crimes and bureaucratic hassles for people who tried to report crimes. His father contacted David Durk, a retired detective who became famous working on similar issues (of NYPD corruption) with whistleblower Frank Serpico. Durk contacted an officer in NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau. Days later, Schoolcraft was placed under ‘forced monitoring.’ Lt. Timothy Caughey confiscated Schoolcraft’s memo book, which contained descriptions of Schoolcraft’s conclusions. Later Schoolcraft’s immediate superior, Rasheena Huffman, said that the Department had made copies of his notes.

By the end of his October 31st shift, Schoolcraft felt sick and intimidated. With permission from Huffman, he left the station an hour early, went home, took some Nyquil, and fell asleep. At 6PM, his father called with a warning message. He looked out the window and saw police massing in the street. He stayed on the phone. After 9PM, he heard people moving upstairs. The officers obtained a key to the apartment after telling the landlord that Schoolcraft was suicidal.

Schoolcraft turned on two tape recorders before the officers entered, and the subsequent interaction was recorded. About twelve high-ranking officers were present. Schoolcraft was interrogated by Deputy Chief Michael Marino, who asked: ‘Adrian … you didn’t hear us knocking on that door?’ Schoolcraft said no and after further questions said, ‘Chief, if you were woken up in your house how would you behave? What is this, Russia?’ The two argued about whether Schoolcraft’s early departure from the station was authorized, and whether he would return to the station with the team.

Schoolcraft agreed to check in to a nearby hospital (Forest Hills) for high blood pressure. When paramedics said they were taking him to Jamaica Hospital, he said he was refusing medical attention (‘RMA’). Marino said: ‘Listen to me, they are going to treat you like an EDP [emotionally disturbed person]. Now, you have a choice. You get up like a man and put your shoes on and walk into that bus, or they’re going to treat you as an EDP and that means handcuffs.’ Marino eventually ordered, ‘Just take him. I can’t f—— stand him anymore.’ The police found and confiscated one tape recorder, but the other one kept rolling.

Schoolcraft was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward in Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. He was handcuffed tightly to a bed and prevented from using a telephone, by orders of police who were present. An officer told the hospital that police had ‘followed him home and he had barricaded himself, and the door had to be broken to get to him.’ Schoolcraft’s father eventually located and retrieved his son. The family received a medical bill of $7,185.

The hospital’s report states: ‘He is coherent, relevant with goal directed speech and good eye contact. … His memory and concentration is intact. He is alert and oriented’ but ‘his insight and judgment are impaired.’ The report also says: ‘He expressed questionable paranoid ideas of conspiracy and cover-ups going [on] in the precinct. Since then, he started collecting ‘evidence’ to ‘prove his point’ and became suspicious ‘They are after him.” After discharge, Schoolcraft was suspended from the force and stopped receiving a paycheck. Police officers visited his house regularly in the following weeks to harass him.

In 2010 Schoolcraft released his recordings to the ‘Village Voice.’ In the analysis of Graham Rayman, writing for the Voice, the pressure to arrest had major effects in the 81st precinct, including: A ninefold increase in ‘stop-and-frisk’ events; arrests on trivial charges, such as a person not displaying identification several feet away from their own house; entire groups of people arrested without charges, simply for congregating on street corners (often ordered directly by precinct commander Steven Mauriello and known as ‘Mauriello specials’); and a functional 8:30 PM curfew. ‘After 8:30, it’s all on me and my officers, and we’re undermanned,’ Mauriello was recorded as saying. ‘The good people go inside. The others stay outside.’

Rayman quotes retired NYPD detective Marquez Claxton: ‘The Police Department is using these numbers to portray themselves as being effective. In portraying that illusion, they have pushed these illegal quotas which force police officers to engage in illegal acts.’ Rayman said the aggressive tactics were related to understaffing on the force. He wrote: a ‘typical day in the 81st Precinct had only three to nine officers patrolling the streets in an area of more than 60,000 people.’ Understaffing also led officers to work more overtime hours, earning more money but also becoming emotionally and physically exhausted.

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