The Village Voice has some nasty things to report about Steven Mauriello, the NYPD commander for Bed-Stuy's 81st Precinct. His orders have "strained the limits of probable cause." He's been calling crime victims, haranguing them until they withdraw their complaints. He tells his officers he wants one apartment building "blown up." All told his actions have "caused an undercurrent of resentment among residents."
Mauriello is a man under fire, both for his tactics and for his recorded comments the Voice is running in its provocative series on police tactics, "The NYPD Tapes" (Part 1, Part 2). But a Community Council meeting for the 81st Precinct last night, the first since the series began, was mostly sedate. Nobody mentioned the articles.
After a call to order and a prayer from members of the Community Council, Mauriello got down to business: rattling off crime statistics. There have been 14 shootings so far compared to 11 last year this time; the precinct's gone the last 24 days without one. Robberies are down 9%. Burglaries are down 22% -- and "we map this daily, so we know."
The catalog of stats and figures seemed slightly ironic, given that Mauriello, and more importantly the NYPD as a whole, have been fiercely criticized the last few months for relying excessively on the CompStat computer program.
It's charged that just these numbers are too easily distorted by the cops (by knocking attempted rape down to a misdemeanor, for example) to make themselves look better. Fans of HBO's The Wire know this practice as "juking the stats."
In February an NYPD officer named Adrian Schoolcraft went public to the Daily News, claiming that the practice was widespread in the 81st Precinct. The New York Civil Liberties Union has long argued that cops across the city are juking the stats by performing an excessive number of "stop and frisks" of young black and Hispanic men on slim pretexts, while simultaneously downgrading major crimes.
Now the Voice is releasing tapes Schoolcraft recorded from internal precinct meetings in a steady drip of articles. They seem to confirm the NYCLU's worst fears.
When it came time for the audience to have its brief word, one woman spoke up about an experience that she said happened to her 22-year-old son. He was riding his bike over to her sister's, she says, when a pair of plainclothes officers veered around the corner and almost knocked him over. Then they proceeded to question her son about what he was up to, until her sister stepped in and asked for badges -- whereupon they left in a hurry.
Mauriello suggested the woman's sister should have tried to get a partial plate number for the cops. Mauriello promised to look into her story, but without a positive ID on the officers a reprimand seems unlikely.
While relatively minor compared to the allegations in the Voice's series -- of citizens jailed for no reason or injured in unjustified arrests -- her story illustrated the sources of mistrust between police and civilians in Bed-Stuy.
Mauriello said his solution for that mistrust was "better etiquette -- the etiquette is, we treat everybody with respect."
On the Voice's tapes, acquired from NYPD Officer Adrian Schoolcraft, Mauriello tells officers to arrest people for offenses as minor as "blocking the sidewalk." He repeatedly states that he wants 120 Chauncey, a troubled housing complex, "blown up" (and last night Mauriello mentioned 120 Chauncey in negative terms several times). He has little tolerance for complaining community members:
[...] Mauriello seemed to be aware that there was some resentment in the community, but he justified the campaign by saying the "good people" were supportive.
"Fuck 'em, I don't give a shit," he says on November 8, 2008. "They are going to come to a community council meeting, yell at me, whatever, I know the good people over there are happy we have officers there."
At last night's community council meeting, nobody was yelling. Mauriello seemed relieved for it to end. As the meeting closed, with another prayer from a community member, he made the sign of the cross.