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Len Levitt

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Adrian Schoolcraft: Enter the Times, Watch the NYPD Sweat

Posted: 09/13/10 11:24 AM ET

The New York Times has joined the Adrian Schoolcraft-NYPD imbroglio.

By devoting a full-column, front page story Friday to the whistle-blower cop, the Times has legitimized at least the tip of his police corruption charges that until now have appeared in the city's tabloids, the Village Voice and this column.

Although it may appear to hibernate for part of the year, the Times does awaken and then beware: there is nothing more dangerous to a politician or a police commissioner who harbors political ambitions.

Remember Commissioner Ray Kelly's stop and frisk databank? It was the Times that put it out of business two months ago, savaging his credibility on that issue with but a few deft strokes.

On the surface, the Times' Schoolcraft story may seem of minor import: a secretly tape-recorded roll call meeting last April, made by what the Times described as a "police supervisor," that quoted an 81st precinct captain, saying cops had to fulfill traffic quotas or risk being fired.

Captain Alex Perez, said the Times, "can be heard warning his top commanders that their officers must start writing more summonses or face consequences. ... He said each officer on a day tour should write 20 summonses a week: five each for double-parking, parking at a bus stop, driving without a seat belt and driving while using a cell phone."

The Times, of course, is only at the outer perimeter of the crime statistics scandal that is roiling the department.

What's at stake is more than traffic quotas at one precinct. The Times hinted at the bigger picture.

It said Perez cited "pressure from top police officials" -- indicating that the quota system was countenanced, even encouraged, from on-high.

Its story added that "the recording makes clear that precinct leaders were focused on raising the number of summonses issued -- even as the Police Department had already begun an inquiry into whether crime statistics in that precinct were being manipulated."

Crime statistics being manipulated is the elephant in the room down at One Police Plaza. Downgrading felonies to misdemeanors, to make city-wide crime appear lower than it actually is, is not confined to the 81st precinct but appears to be rampant throughout the department.

As criminologists Eli Silverman and John Eterno, a former NYPD captain, wrote recently in the Village Voice, "The ominous side is that in order to silence dissenters and deny any problems, the NYPD continues to close its doors to any non-sponsored outside scrutiny. Yet the evidence of data manipulation is, at this point, overwhelming."

Such downgrading has consequences for public safety that go beyond statistics.

As the Voice reported, police in Upper Manhattan downgraded the complaints of rape to misdemeanor assaults, which meant that detectives weren't aware that a pervert was on the loose until a half-dozen women were attacked.

Frightening in another way was the department's response to Schoolcraft's charges. A police posse, led by Deputy Chief Michael Marino, burst into Schoolcraft's apartment and dragged him against his will to Jamaica Hospital, where he was kept in its psych ward for six days -- retaliation for his corruption charges, his lawyer maintains.

When Schoolcraft subsequently fled the city and moved upstate, the department pursued him, treating him like a fugitive. They repeatedly sent cops hundreds of miles to bang on his door and threaten him with reprisals if he did not return.

An official of the local upstate police department confirmed to this reporter that the NYPD had been all over Schoolcraft's place.

After remaining silent for a day after the Times' ticket quota story, department spokesman Paul Browne came out with guns blazing, calling the reporting of world's most respected newspaper "confused" and "absurd."

Such name-calling is typical NYPD overkill when the department has been caught red-handed.

And what of Schoolcraft's charge that Browne accompanied the police posse that dragged him in handcuffs to the psyche ward?

So far Browne -- who readers of this column know as "Mr. Truth" -- has refused to officially respond to that question, although he did tell a sycophantic television reporter -- off the record -- that he wasn't there.

So as not to appear confused or absurd, this reporter sent him the following email: "Paul, were you or were you not at Schoolcraft's apartment when he was brought to Jamaica hospital?'

He did not respond.

Let's see how he answers when the Times asks.

GARRY'S VICTORY LAP. Former NYPD Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy appeared last week before the Citizens Crime Commission and described his struggles and successes since becoming Newark's police director four years ago.

Respected in the NYPD as both an innovative and hands-on boss, McCarthy cited his use of the "NYPD Playbook" in reducing Newark's sky-high murder rate and attacking street gangs and narcotics trafficking.

He singled out for thanks two former bosses and NYPD giants: the late Jack Maple and Bill Bratton.

Bratton was in the audience for McCarthy's talk. Not in attendance: former commissioner Howard Safir, who elevated McCarthy to Deputy Commissioner and current commissioner Kelly, who doesn't show up when Bratton is expected.

McCarthy has mellowed enough that he was able to discuss dispassionately his past dust-up with the Palisades Parkway police, who ticketed his daughter for parking in a handicapped zone. This escalated into his and his wife's arrest, and (when he fought the charge against his daughter) into probably the most expensive parking ticket in world history.

"There are things I would have done differently," McCarthy acknowledged. "I think it's a renegade agency. And I was railroaded," he said, by the traffic court judge.

"But I was protecting my daughter from someone I was not sure was a cop and I'd do that again. When you're right, you're right."

CHEAP SHOT? Chief Queens Assistant District attorney Jack Ryan called this column's suggestion that his office was reluctant to investigate Adrian Schoolcraft's police-led trip to Jamaica's hospital psych ward a "cheap shot."

Ryan pointed out that to begin an investigation into the incident, he needed Schoolcraft's cooperation. "He said he would produce his medical records and he never produced them. If he produces the records, we will look at his allegations."


TWO SMALL 9/11 AFTERTHOUGHTS. How much of the resentment over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero stems from the failure of our own leaders -- city and state officials and the site's developer -- to construct a memorial to those who died in the nine years since the attack?

What authority, moral, legal, legislative or otherwise, does disgraced former Staten Island Congressman Vito Fossella claim that allows him to lead a group of protesters against the building of the proposed mosque?

With him was Long Island Congressman Peter King, who -- despite the discovery of Fossella's secret second family in Washington D.C. (in addition to his wife and three children in Staten Island) -- urged Fossella to run for re-election.