A bad month for the NYPD keeps getting worse.
This summer I caught a screening of “Serpico” with Al Pacino—the 1973 movie that tells the story of Frank Serpico, the real-life New York city cop who brought the first large-scale corruption case against the department. Seeing the scale of corruption, it’s incredible to think that once it was exposed in public trial and in the the pages of the New York Times for all to see, that there wasn’t some kind of oversight committee created to change things once and for all.
Almost four decades later, however, it’s still business as usual. A “This American Life” story “Right to Remain Silent” tells the story of former NYC cop Adrian Schoolcraft, who was so uncomfortable with the practice of unwarranted arrests that he began tape recording all his interactions within the department, including a house call in which he was essentially captured by the NYPD and thrown into a psych ward until his father—also a former cop—found him and got him out. Schoolcraft’s testimony eventually uncovered all kinds of corrupt practices, including logging potential rape and battery cases as lesser offenses so that precincts would appear to have more favorable crime rates.
Now, former narcotics detective Stephen Anderson has testified that the practice of planting drugs on innocent people in order to meet arrest quotas is widespread within the agency.
The NY Daily News reports “Anderson, testifying under a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, was busted for planting cocaine, a practice known as “flaking,” on four men in a Queens bar in 2008 to help out fellow cop Henry Tavarez, whose buy-and-bust activity had been low.”
Asked on the stand whether planting drugs on innocent civilians was something he’d seen often in the agency, Anderson said “Yes, multiple times… It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators.”
Asked whether he was troubled by arresting and imprisoning innocent people, he explained simply, “It’s almost like you have no emotion with it. They’re going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway; nothing is going to happen to them anyway.”
The NYPD badge bears an acronym that reads “Courtesy, professionalism and respect.” A department that rejoices at pepper-spraying innocent college girls at non-violent protests and remorseless plants of cocaine on civilians can only said to be failing epically at living up to this standard.