THE BLOG

Those Schoolcraft Tapes

05/17/2010 10:56 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Whether whiner or whistleblower, police officer Adrian Schoolcraft continues to damage the credibility of the New York City Police Department.

An eight year veteran assigned to Brooklyn's 81st precinct, Schoolcraft appeared last February in a Daily News expose, accusing precinct commander Steven Mauriello of fudging statistics so that crime would appear to be lower than it actually was.

Specifically, Schoolcraft accused precinct officials of downgrading felonies to misdemeanors, refusing to take victims' complaints and trying to talk others out of even reporting certain crimes.

Last week the Village Voice did the News one better.

It published a three-part series by reporter Graham Rayman, based on 15 months of tapes that Schoolcraft had secretly made of the precinct's roll calls.

The stories expanded on Schoolcraft's "downgrading" charges and described the pressures police are under from their superiors to meet arrest quotas, even for minor crimes.

"They wise off, they fucking push you, I expect them handcuffed, all right?" Mauriello said in a July, 2008 roll call. "Anybody gets stopped and it's a summonsable offense, I want them handcuffed and brought into the precinct."

A sergeant told cops they could void such arrests at the end of their tours. "You'll void it later on in the night so you'll all go home on time."

Yet the 81st precinct is not an isolated case - especially when it comes to downgrading crimes.

The Voice discovered a disturbing episode where the police tried to downplay an attempted rape in Upper Manhattan by classifying it as a misdemeanor.

When the Manhattan District Attorney became involved, police were forced to properly reclassify the case as a violent felony.

Carole Sher, director of the Beth Israel Hospital Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Intervention Program, told the Voice that downgrading rape complaints is a growing problem across the city.

"The police will come to the ER and rather than taking basic information, they ask questions that are in a way disbelieving, or almost trying to prove that it didn't happen," she said.

The Voice also cited a recent case of Manhattan officers refusing to take a report from a battered wife fleeing an abusive husband in Suffolk County and seeking treatment at a city hospital.

When a doctor alerted the local precinct, officers refused to make a report because they said the crime did not take place in Manhattan.

Although stories like these have been circulating for the past five years, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been able to defuse their political impact.

While some people think Kelly's greatest success lies in combating terrorism, his greatest accomplishment has actually been in closing the police department to outside scrutiny.

As early as 2005, the presidents of the patrolmen's and sergeants' union announced that commanders were forcing their members to downgrade crimes.

But no city paper reported the story.

Department spokesman Paul Browne - known to readers of this column as Mr. Truth - dismissed the reports, convincing reporters that the allegations were part of a feud between Kelly and the PBA, which had recently given him a vote of no confidence.

When Mark Pomerantz, the chairman of the Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption, attempted to obtain records from precincts where crime was reportedly low-balled, Kelly refused to turn them over.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed Kelly by saying and doing nothing, forcing Pomerantz to resign. With that, the last hope of department accountability ended.

After Schoolcraft's story appeared in the News, two criminologists - one a retired NYPD captain - produced a survey of 100 retired top brass showing, as the Times put it, that "the intense pressure to produce annual crime reductions had led some supervisors and precinct commanders to manipulate crime statistics."

Spokesman Browne dismissed the survey, maintaining that its respondents might have simply, "been repeating what they had heard or learned from news reports."

Even the Voice seems susceptible to the department line.

The paper quoted Harriet Lessel, the director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, saying she had recently met with Kelly about how police allegedly mishandle cases of rape victims and that Kelly had "pledged to look into the issue and created an internal task force to study the problem."

An internal task force to study the problem? Are you kidding? An internal task force will say only what the Commissioner wants it to say.

Remember the Mollen Commission hearings on police corruption? Chief Daniel Sullivan of Internal Affairs testified he was literally afraid to give then Commissioner Ben Ward bad news about corruption because Ward became furious. Instead, Sullivan hid the most serious corruption cases in what was known as a "tickler" file.

If the top brass feared Ward, how fearful do you think they are of Kelly?

Would anyone on Kelly's internal task force be brave enough to suggest that downgrading crimes may not be an isolated problem but a systemic one?

How do you get an honest answer from Kelly's "internal" task force? Make the task force "external."

HIS HOSPITAL RECORDS? Schoolcraft has already paid a price for speaking out. As in the old Soviet Union, police forcibly took him to Jamaica Hospital last October, where, he says, he was kept against his will inside the psychiatric ward for six days.

He landed there last Halloween night after the NYPD came to his home in Queens and ordered him back to work after he says he fell ill and left his tour of duty an hour early.

When he refused to return, officers called Emergency Medical Service, which determined he had high blood pressure, then transported him to Jamaica Hospital, where he ended up in the psych ward - hardly the usual place for treating blood pressure problems.

His father Larry says the hospital has refused to release the records of his son's stay, including the name of the admitting doctor.

But we may soon find out.

Ole Pedersen, the hospital's vice president for Emergency Medicine & Public Affairs writes:

I have investigated and spoken with my medical records staff. The patient had not signed an authorization before leaving to release his records. We received a request from his atty. and we sent the patient a letter requesting auth. Our staff did subsequently receive the request but it was held up because of a discrepancy between signatures, which is a part of the process if a reviewer does not find a clear match in signatures. This process is to protect patient confidentiality. ...

I am told that the records have been pulled from the various areas i.e. lab, patient care etc. and is [sic] being assembled and reviewed. They will be copied and a charge determined based on the number of pages. I am told that this will be complete and the record will be available by the end of the week.

NO GO, JOE. Contrary to what this column reported last week, Joe Demarest, who headed the FBI's New York office, will not be returning to the Big Apple, at least not with the FBI.

Demarest was reassigned last March to Washington for what a Bureau spokesman said was a "temporary assignment" to develop something called Strategy Performance Sessions.

In reality, sources said his reassignment stemmed from an internal investigation into whether he had used his influence as a senior manager to get his FBI girlfriend promoted.

Whatever was decided, Demarest will be remaining in Washington as Assistant Director of the FBI's International Operations Division, a position officials described as "a lateral transfer."

"In his new role, Joe will be responsible for leading the FBI's international and overseas law enforcement and liaison efforts," FBI Director Robert Mueller said in a press release.

While Demarest's pay grade and title of Assistant Director remain the same, -- [The press release called him "assistant director," without the capitals] - officials noted that Demarest was the top guy in the New York office, the Bureau's largest and most prestigious outside Washington. In Washington he will be but one of about a dozen assistant directors.

Call it a lateral transfer with a dip.

THE CONGRESSMAN SPEAKS OUT. Congressman Peter King of Long Island, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, apparently loves losers.

He's sticking up for ex-NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik and disgraced Staten Island Congressman Vita Fossella.

"This is an absolute disgrace," King said on Fox News' Geraldo Rivera show of Kerik's four year sentence after he plead guilty to eight felony counts.

The sense of hypocrisy here with the media and the elite. If Bernie Kerik were more politically correct, or if Bernie Kerik didn't come from such a rough upbringing... we'd have editorials all over the country denouncing what happened.

What happened is that Bernie Kerik got too big for some people who don't go for his type of person: a tough guy, an honest guy, a guy who fights for the people.... He didn't come from the socially elite crowd. He doesn't back down from that. As a result of that, what stood out in this matter was the injustice by the government, the injustice by the judge. If there were any fairness in this matter, Bernie Kerik should be getting medals.

King is also urging Fossella to run again for his old seat. Married with three children, Fossella was discovered, after a drunken driving incident, to have a second family in Washington.

This time, though, King can't play the "anti-elite" card.

Fossella's great-grandfather, James A. O'Leary , represented S.I. in Congress from 1935 to 1944. An uncle, Frank Fossella, was a prominent Staten Island Democrat who was a City Council member for four years. His father Vito served in various positions in the administrations of Edward Koch and Abe Beame.

And unlike Kerik, Fossella graduated from college, elite colleges at that -- Wharton and Fordham Law School.