October 12, 2018

#128 The Crime Machine, Part II

by Reply All

New York City cops are in a fight against their own police department. They say it’s under the control of a broken computer system that punishes cops who refuse to engage in racist, corrupt policing. The story of their fight, and the story of the grouchy idealist who originally built the machine they’re fighting.

This is the second part of a two-part series. For part one, listen to Episode #127 The Crime Machine, Part I

More Like This

Transcript

PJ VOGT: Hey, before you start this episode—first of all this is Part II of a two-part story, so make sure you’ve listened to Part I—also, as we said at the top of the last episode, there’s a couple of vivid descriptions of sexual violence in this. If you don’t want to hear that, you should just skip this one. 


[REPLY ALL THEME MUSIC]


PJ VOGT: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m PJ Vogt.

 

 [Footsteps] 


PJ: I should probably sit next to you just for microphone--


JOHN ETERNO: You can sit wherever you feel comfortable.


PJ: Last March, I drove out to Molloy College on Long Island to meet this guy named John Eterno. 


ETERNO: (mic noise) That’s my mess. I’m a little busy this time of year.


PJ: You should see our office. This is not a mess.


PJ: John was a cop back in the Jack Maple CompStat era, and he remembers being really excited about CompStat. It was like for the first time new ideas were actually circulating in the police department. He remembers this one meeting where somebody came in, and they were like, “Guys, we found a new way to identify robbery suspects. We used a yearbook.”


ETERNO: And they found the guy showing the yearbooks to the person who was robbed. And they go, “Oh, yeah, that's him right there.” And they ended up arresting him, and then the whole department started using yearbooks. You know, they said “hey, you know what? That's great idea. Let's go get the yearbook.” So these new things went through the department like, like wildfire. 


PJ: John is a crime nerd. He was a crime nerd when he joined the police department in 1983, he was a crime nerd when he retired in 2004, he was a crime nerd when he immediately jumped into an academic career in criminology. And as a crime nerd, the thing that was amazing to him about CompStat was how year after year he could just watch the crime rate. Watch as it just went down and down and down. He started to notice it always went down. 


ETERNO: We’ve seen it go down for 25 years without even a blip, you’ve got to look and that and say, “Well, wait a minute. You know, there isn’t one year where crime just bumps up a little bit? That in and of itself gets you to think, well wait a minute, is there something going on here?


[MUSIC]


PJ: There was. It turned out the pressure to keep the crime rate going down and down and down, it had started to have some severe unintended consequences.


PJ: So, so I guess like, just first thing can you just say your name, like just introduce yourself? 


RITCHIE: My name is Ritchie Baez. I'm a 14-year veteran of the New York Police Department.



[MUSIC]


PJ: Ritchie was working during that era that John was puzzling over. The era where the crime rate just kept going down and down and down. And he told me a story about what that was like. This story about a thing that happened one night when he was working late in the Bronx. 


RITCHIE: Ah lemme see, it was in the fall -- I think 2011 or 2012. I’m in this fixed post, me and my partner, 149 and 3rd. 


PJ: Ritchie and his partner had been told to just stand on this one street corner all night. It’s this intersection in a commercial part of town, so it’s all these retail stores. But it’s midnight, so all the stores are closed. It’s the kind of assignment where most nights you just stand there and nothing happens until the sun comes up. But that night, this guy runs up to them and says, “Hey, something really bad is going on. You gotta help.” 


RITCHIE: He says, “Listen, I see a guy dragging a lady into a vacant lot. I think he’s gonna rape her.” So we got in the car. We drive. And I hear a lady screaming, “Help help help.” So I see him on top of her. He’s punching her, and he’s raping her. So I flash my light. I tell him, “Stop.” He stop. And I tell them, both of them, “Come towards me.” They both starts walking. So she has a black eye. Both have their pants down. 


PJ: The victim starts to tell Ritchie what happened. And he says thinking back now, the thing that still stands out to him is just how precise she was in the way she described it. 


RITCHIE: She says, “He raped me. I know I'm a prostitute, but no money was exchanged. He assaulted me, and he inserted his penis inside my vagina without my consent, while he was assaulting me.” So she basically broke down the definition of rape. Textbook. 


PJ: So Ritchie calls the crime in over the radio, and his boss shows up at the scene. 


RITCHIE: And basically he tried questioning her. The way he was questioning her- they–they question the victim several times and try to see if you change your story slightly.


PJ: Ritchie knew exactly what his boss was up to. His boss did not want to enter this victim’s crime into CompStat. And so what he was doing was he was questioning her over and over and over again, trying to find some hole in her story that would give him an excuse to treat the crime as something less than rape. He was trying to downgrade her crime. 


PJ: What’s the kind of change that would allow a downgrade?


RITCHIE: Well, they was trying to make it as a theft of service. 


PJ: Theft of service? 


RITCHIE: Yeah. Prostitution is not legal in the state of New York. 


PJ: It’s also just somebody, calling somebody who’s a rape victim, saying it’s theft of service because they are a prostitute, just feels--


RITCHIE: It’s dehumanizing, it’s degrading, it’s making that person feel less than zero. 


RITCHIE: So that same sergeant after he questioned her several times and she didn’t change--


PJ: So she was standing her ground. 


RITCHIE: She was standing her ground.


PJ: Did she, did you get the sense that she knew why he was asking the questions he was asking?


RITCHIE: Yes, she said that previously, uh, it happened to her. And they shitcanned it. 

So she said the detective that was there said, “Next time this happens to you, you have to say it this way.”


PJ: The detective had told her, “Here’s what you have to say so that your crime counts?”


RITCHIE: Yes.


PJ: So eventually Ritchie’s boss actually gave up. 


RITCHIE: He was like, “Wow.” So the sergeant, he was like, “Ritchie, just type up the report. Rape. If they say anything, tell him I told you.” I said, “OK.”


PJ: So Ritchie went back to the station and he did it. He put the crime into the system. It would count. And he said as soon as he put that report into the system, somebody must have gotten a notification. 


RITCHIE: Five minutes after I finished writing it up, they came to the room where I was at. “Who told you to do that?”


PJ: Who’s they? Who came in?


RITCHIE: Uh, you had the commanding officer and two–his two lieutenants. He was like, “Who told you to do that?” You know, I said, “The sergeant told me.” So they left it alone. Because now it’s in the system. There’s no way they can explain it away. 


PJ: Ritchie’s bosses had been so afraid to add a dot to their crime map, that they were willing to let a rapist go. But because Ritchie got his way, the guy would be charged with the actual crime he committed. 


RITCHIE: Not only that, they took a DNA sample from the, from the rapist, and it linked to two other rape victims in Manhattan. 


PJ: If it had been written as theft of services, would they have done the DNA test? 


RITCHIE: No, ’cause it’s not a DNA-qualifying crime. 


PJ: Ritchie said crime downgrading happened all the time—because of CompStat. 


RITCHIE: What CompStat did it’s basically turning NYPD from not being expert in fighting crime, but being expert on how to downgrade crimes in order for commanding officers to go to the next level.


PJ: When Jack had designed CompStat, he’d overlooked something very important. 


So he’d set up these terrifying CompStat meetings, and he told people, you are responsible for the crime in your neighborhood. If your crime numbers are going in the wrong direction, you are going to be in trouble. 


But some of these chiefs started to figure out, wait a minute, the person who's in charge of actually keeping track of the crime in my neighborhood is me. And so if they couldn’t make crime go down, they just would stop reporting crime. And they found all these different ways to do it. You could refuse to take crime reports from victims, you could write down different things than what had actually happened. You could literally just throw paperwork away. And so that guy would survive that CompStat meeting, he’d get his promotion, and then when the next guy showed up, the number that he had to beat was the number that a cheater had set. And so he had to cheat a little bit more. 


The way John Eterno described it, it was like pretty soon nobody had a choice anymore. The chiefs felt like they were keeping the crime rate down for the commissioner. The commissioner felt like he was keeping the crime rate down for the mayor. And the mayor, the mayor had to keep the crime rate down because otherwise real estate prices would crash, tourists would go away. It was like the crime rate itself became the boss. 


ETERNO: I think it's a political imperative at this time. We've seen crime go down for 25 years. When you see crime go down for 25 years, it's difficult to be the mayor or anyone where crime starts going up.


PJ: What does it–how does it shape enforcement when, if the whole idea of CompStat is that it's helping prioritize like where to put cops, and what to tell them look for, what happens in this version where the numbers have been kind of hoodwinked?


ETERNO: You're basically just fighting numbers. You're not finding real crime. And that's what's going on. Uh, the-th-the real crime that's occurring, unfortunately—I do think it's down, don't misunderstand me. But a lot of these things are slipping through the cracks. Where uh officers and detectives could be developing patterns and other types of things to make sure that these rapes aren’t occurring. These types of things are not happening now because the reports are not being properly kept. So, you’re basically fighting a battle without the intelligence that you need.


PJ: So the final effect of all this pressure was that the very crimes Jack cared the most about, those were the ones that were actually being hidden because of CompStat. 


PJ: John surveyed a bunch of retired cops and he saw how this pressure had built over time. He said crime report manipulation had skyrocketed in 1995, towards the end of Jack’s time at the NYPD. In 2008, he found that 75 percent of the NYPD officers he surveyed ranked captain or above were aware of downgrading. There was so much fraud that it finally occurred to John to just ask the police officers, “At this point, do you even believe in the crime rate?” 


ETERNO: “Do you believe that crime down 80 percent?” Because that’s what the claim is by the New York City Police Department, that crime is down 80 percent. Their own officers on average suggested that crime is only down 40 percent in the city. 


So two decades later, what CompStat had done is it had taken the most basic measurement for whether the city was safe or not and made it unreliable. The crime rate itself was a lie. 


But the pressure took this other damaging direction, this sort of opposite, contradictory direction at the same time. So the same cops who were being told, “The crime rate has to go down, the crime rate has to go down, there has to be less crime in your neighborhood,” this thing started to happen where they were being told, “You’re activity needs to go up. We want to see that you are doing something.” 


And so year after year, these chiefs were going to CompStat, and they had to prove that their cops were arresting more people, were summonsing more people, were doing most stop-and-frisks than the people in the neighborhood the year before.


So remember Pedro Serrano, the guy from the first episode. The cop who was being put in a van and told to drive around the neighborhood writing summonses. 


PEDRO: You know, we were just shaking our heads like, “What did you give him?” “Blocking pedestrian traffic.” And they just start laughing. I'm like, oh wow. 


PJ: The reason this was happening was because of that pressure for activity. And over the years, that pressure just got higher and higher. Pedro said it had gone from what felt like a sort of soft, unofficial quota to like a hard quota. Like a number that he was given every month or even at the beginning of every shift for the amount of summonses and arrests he had to come back with. 


Officially, the New York City Police Department says they do not have a quota system. They say they do have performance goals. Also, they did not return requests for comment for this story. 


Anyway, in 2009, Pedro made a decision. He was going to start bringing a tape recorder to work and recording some of the things his bosses were telling him. And at this one roll call, he turns it on. 


SUPERVISOR: Last night, they, they had really good turnout. They had no problem getting summonses. Probably going to do the same thing tonight. Everyone was out on the street. Looking for five-- 


PJ: Pedro’s boss is giving them their quota for the night. They all have to go out and get five summons.


SUPERVISOR: I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. If there’s a problem, switch it up. You can go into any of the zones, just make sure you’re in a zone. Don’t write activity outside the zone. Don’t write activity-- 


PJ: Somebody asks, “Can we hit the park at least?” 

 

SUPERVISOR: St. Mary’s Park — go crazy in there, go crazy, I don’t care. As long as it’s—if we get every single summons in St. Mary’s, I don’t care. It’s in the zone. Alright so--


PJ: So what Pedro is hearing his boss say is you can get every summons you need in the park, that’s fine. But he knows the other thing that she’s not explicitly saying, which is that for those summonses to count, they’ll have to be of young black men.


And the reason for that is also directly coming from CompStat. The reason this roll call is happening was because there had been a crime pattern in the neighborhood. At a nearby intersection, there had been a string of robberies, and witnesses had identified the suspects as young black men between the ages of 14 and 21. 


So his boss wanted to be safe at CompStat, wanted to be able to say, “Our cops are being very active.” And so she was telling them, you don’t even have to go to the intersection. Go to the nearby park, write a bunch of summonses, as long as they’re for young black men, it’s fine. 


PEDRO: And they start targeting. They called it the Impact Zones, and they would flood that area, and everyone in the Impact Zone, whether you were just a regular guy or a criminal, would get hit because you got so many police officers, they all need activity. 


PJ: Well, and so, this is one of the things that I'm really confused by. Does the activity, the things that summons are being written for, does it need to be related to the crime that’s being committed? 


PEDRO: No. What’s happening is, in theor–in theory it’s just supposed to be. But um, they just care about the number. They go to CompStat and say, “Hey, I made 20 arrests—they were black and hispanic—made 20 arrests. This is what we're doing to stop crime in that neighborhood. We're doing something about crime.” They are not.


PJ: It’s was this intensely broken version of the kind of policing Jack had pushed for. You weren’t actually targeting the people committing crimes, you were just targeting the people who were the same race and age as them. And Pedro said, even if you happened to get the right person in one of these sweeps, you were gonna catch tons of other innocent people along with them. And that’s what was happening. Across the neighborhood, young black and latino men were constantly being swept up, stopped for anything and everything and ticketed for stuff that had nothing to do with the crime patterns that the cops were supposed to be addressing. 


PEDRO: There's only but a set, a number of people in that community. So after you, you um, exhausted all the bad guys, you have to hit the next level, which is the average guy. So now it starts to leak into another part of the community, the older generation, the–even the younger generation. And you start hitting them. Then after that, um, when you've exhausted everyone, you just have to hit everybody.


PJ: And the thing that really made Pedro angry is that sometimes he would get a weekend assignment to a different neighborhood, like a neighborhood that was rich and white. And he would see that this whole kind of policing, it didn’t happen there at all.


PEDRO: I remember in, uh, the 5-0 precinct there are certain summonses that you can’t write in a certain area. People and the cops tell me, “Oh, I can’t go to Riverdale and write summonses because of the type of people that live there.” Like, OK. 


PJ: And what if somebody, like, what if somebody kind of didn't get the memo, first day of work, they see somebody, they see like a 35-year-old white architect on a bicycle on the sidewalk in Central Park and they write a summons.

 

PEDRO: Well that architect might have a lawyer. He might have friends. A simple phone call, another phone call, it reaches the commanding officer. He tells the lieutenant, the lieutenant tells the sergeant, sergeant comes up to you, “Don't do it or else.” That quick, within a day. “Where's this summons?” “Well, I submitted it.” “No problem.” That summons is gone. Gone. 


PJ: So what happened? Like, how did the machine Jack Maple built turn into this? A lot of people trace it to this one fight between Jack and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. 


[MUSIC — ”A LOT OF PEOPLE TOLD ME”] 


And the whole fight, it starts with a newspaper article. So Mayor Giuliani reads this article in the paper about how some other city, not New York had been making a lot of gun arrests. And he’s mad. And so he calls Jack into his office, furious, he’s like, “Why are the cops over there arresting more people for guns than the cops here?" And Jack tells him, "Oh, actually this is good news. Like, the reason we're making fewer gun arrests is because we've actually reduced gun crime, like, there's fewer people for us to get."


And Giuliani tells him, “No. Crime goes down, arrests go up.”


DALY: Jack said, “No. What are you crazy? Crime goes down, arrests go down.” And they went back and forth, back and forth and Jack said, [scoffs]. That’s what happened.


PJ: Again, Jack’s friend Mike Daly.


DALY: The problem, what happened to this city is that the people who started running CompStat didn't understand the, the inspiring principle. 


PJ: So what is the–


DALY: They started using it as a management tool. 


PJ: And what was it supposed to be?


DALY: It was supposed to be, treat every crime seriously. It was supposed to be -- if that was your mother, what would you do to get the guy that did that to her? It's not supposed to be, you know, summonses, activity, numbers. 


PJ: And in the years after Jack had left the police department, when people would ask Giuliani, why are you having the police just aggressively arrest people for little things when the city has gotten so much safer? He had an answer—the answer that dominated every discussion we ever got to have about policing for the next two decades—broken windows policing. 


So according to Rudolph Giuliani, broken windows was a theory that meant that all you had to do was aggressively police low-level crime—like misdemeanors and summons stuff, stuff like people drinking on the street. And if you did that there would just be this general sense of order that meant that the violent crime never happened. 


And because he believed in this, he could keep pushing people harder and harder even as the city got safer. Jack did not believe in the idea of broken windows policing. He did do a lot of quality of life enforcement, but the way he explained it, it was a tool you could use in a really specific way. Like, if you knew that somebody was a drug dealer, and you didn’t have another way to stop them, you could use the fact that they were also drinking a beer on the street as a pretext. He said it was like catching crooks when they were off duty. But he also said that if all you did was quality of life enforcement, you would end up with a net that caught dolphins instead of sharks. And that wasn’t the point.


JACK: Just quality of life, without the warrants, without the debriefs. Just the straight quality of life stuff. That is like giving a facelift to a cancer patient, alright? If you only have quality of life enforcement, right? You will be living in a fool's paradise.


[MUSIC — DRIVING UNDERGROUND]


And that was the situation Pedro found himself in two decades later. In a neighborhood where there was plenty of serious crime that he felt like he should be pursuing, but where he was being told instead to just go after people for the little things. And by 2012, he had really just had enough. He started to push back. He would fight with his bosses, he would refuse to meet the quota, and they started punishing him. 


He’d get sent to punishment posts in far away desolate places or be put on forced overtime. When he wanted to see his kids, instead he’d be out there being told, “You have to make a quota before you can come home.” And his relationship with his wife started to fall apart. 


PEDRO: When you're working all the time, when you're forced overtime and you don't get to spend time with them and you're stressed out and you bring that stress home and it's hard to get rid of it. Your–the person you married is not the same person you’re gonna get back. 


PJ: One day when he’s out on patrol, Pedro runs into a commanding officer, and he gets this firsthand demonstration of how his bosses actually think he should be doing his job. The thing Pedro sees is horrifying. There’s a guy standing on the corner, and the commanding officer stops him and proceeds to do a search of this guy that is completely illegal.


Right there, out on the street, he pulls the man’s pants down, he pulls his underwear down and then grabs his genitals with his hands looking for drugs. Pedro’s looking at the guy who looks completely terrified. 


PJ: How was he reacting?


PEDRO: It was cold. The guy was shaking. The commanding officer gr- went into his genitalia and asked him, “Why are you shaking?” And he says, “Your hands are on my balls.” Now my partner and I are shocked. First time we saw this with, with this person. He went in there and, and you can see the guy physically shaking. And I'm like man, what's going to happen? Is he gonna give me this arrest? And if he gives me this arrest, he's gonna want me to reword things. Because if I put it the way I saw it, he might go to jail. Someone's going to go to jail. And if someone goes to jail, I'm a rat. If I'm a rat, I'm a target. So I fear for my life by say, by telling someone what I saw, and, at the same time, um, they, you know, I'm supposed to report it.


PJ: Pedro decides to report the guy to internal affairs. He submits the report, and nothing happens. So then Pedro decides to do something much riskier. He hears about this lawsuit, a bunch of New Yorkers are suing the city over stop-and-frisk, saying it’s being applied in a racist, unfair way. And Pedro decides he is going to testify against the police department. When it gets out that Pedro is doing this, his boss suddenly tells him, “Hey, you know that meeting we were supposed to have where we discussed your low performance scores? Let’s have it right now." And so Pedro walks in with his tape recorder hoping to get evidence of this system that he’s been fighting the whole time.


SUPERVISOR: This is very important to understand. 


PEDRO: OK.


SUPERVISOR: Because it’s the right people, the right time. 


PEDRO: [unintelligible] I’m not going to do that.


SUPERVISOR: This is about stopping the right people, the right place, the right location–


PEDRO: OK–


SUPERVISOR: Again, take Mott Haven, where we had the most problems. Problem was what? Male blacks, and I told you at roll call—and I have no problem telling you this—male blacks 14-20, 21. And I said this at roll call–


PEDRO: So what am I supposed to do? Male blacks 14-20 wearing dark clothing. What do you–what do you want me to do? Specify numbers–


SUPERVISOR: [shouting] Again, hold on, hold on, can you just do me a favor?


PEDRO: Yes.


SUPERVISOR: --and take it down a notch because this is becoming insubordination--


PEDRO: Look, I am--alright


SUPERVISOR: You’re getting close, you’re getting close to me having a problem with ya. 


PEDRO: Alright. 


SUPERVISOR: Now listen to me. The problem is you don’t know--


PEDRO: It’s fight or flight at this point. I’m being attacked by this man. He’s trying to push me against a wall–mentally and emotionally trying to push me against that wall. I am not backing down. I don’t care about his rank. I don’t care about who he is. To me, he’s a punk, he’s a bully, and I’m not going to let you bully me. 


[MUSIC TO BREAK]


After the break, Pedro fights back. 


BREAK


PJ: Welcome back to the show.


So Pedro takes the recording of the conversation he had with this boss, and he gives it to the lawyers who are fighting the city. And as soon as people find out about that, it’s not just his boss who’s coming after him anymore. It’s other cops—because in the eyes of a lot of other police officers, Pedro is now a rat. When he gets to work, his locker is covered in rat stickers. There’s a rat trap on the lock. And when he opens his locker, he realizes that the contents have been vandalized. 


[MUSIC]


PEDRO: I had weird people following me. I had to stop and get out my car. “What is your problem?” And the guy drives away. 


PJ: Did you recognize the guy?


PEDRO: No. There are believers within the police department that believe that this is the right way to go. That we have to attack black people, and if you are defending them, you’re against us. 


PJ: Over and over, Pedro keeps picturing these scenes in his head. He thinks about Frank Serpico, a whistleblower from the ’70s who got shot in the face on a drug raid. Serpico always believed that the cops he was with left him to die. 

He thinks about Adrian Schoolcraft, this whistleblower from just a few years ago who recorded a bunch of roll calls. Cops dragged him out of his house and forced him into a psych ward for six days. 


Pedro starts to notice how when he calls for backup, fewer people show up. 


PEDRO: Now, if they set you up for death, whoever's around you could die. If they follow you home, if they know where you live and they throw gasoline bottles through your window just to hurt you. My kid sleeps in the next room. If they do drive-bys and blame it on somebody else, my kid is a target because they're next to me. 


PJ: Pedro says the more he feels like he's in danger, the more he just cocoons himself. 


PEDRO: So I have to, basically, to keep my mind sane, I had to be by myself because everyone was a target. They were--they--they could basically hurt my kid, so I had to push my kid away from me because, um. I don’t know. I can’t really talk about my kid. But anyway, when it comes to that, uh, I had to just be by myself so that I would only be a target.


[MUSIC]


PJ: In 2013, Pedro's side actually won the stop-and-frisk trial. A federal judge told the city, "You can't use stop-and-frisk the way you're using it." And stops went way, way, way down. But for Pedro, like, nothing really changed because the machine itself was still there. No more stop-and-frisk? OK. That pressure just moved over and now what it wanted was just more criminal summonses. The same people were being harassed, just with a slightly different justification.


Every time I read a story about police in America now, I look for the machine. And more times than not, I see it. In Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was shot by police, the city has issued three warrants for every household. 


NEWS CLIPS OF OFFICERS YELLING: MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!


PROTESTER: [Shouting] We unarmed civilian. We unarmed civilian.


OFFICER: You need to get out of the street and disperse immediately [siren noise].


PJ: Nearly 25,000 warrants in a city of 21,000 people. Ferguson’s second highest source of revenue in 2013 was just municipal court fees and fines, the money you make from summonses and arrests. Or I see it, in Chicago, where in 2014, there was a homicide downgrading scandal, murders were being disappeared, hidden, filed as non criminal death investigations. 


[MUSIC]


When I see stories about cities where police brutality is high or where violent crimes don’t actually get solved, I know that some of that is the pressure from these two numbers: the need to always have a low crime rate and high police activity. 


And those numbers don’t measure the kind of policing that Pedro values. They don’t measure all the times a situation gets de-escalated without anyone being arrested. They don’t measure whether a white teenager and a black teenager are equally likely to get thrown up against a wall by a cop. They don’t even measure how safe the people in a community feel. So how do you redirect the pressure? How do you create a machine that cares about more than just those two numbers? Pedro doesn’t know. A lot of times figuring out how that would work feels impossible. 


But after the stop and frisk trial, one thing did change, which is that it turned out the same attention that got Pedro in so much trouble, it was also like a bat signal to all these different cops in New York City who had the exact same problems with the machine that he did. And in the aftermath, a bunch of them started to come forward. 


PEDRO: You know, there was a bunch of us that thought the same way. That's how we basically met over time. We started to meet after, uh, the day was over and meet at a local McDonald's or a diner or whatever and just talk about the day and how can we fix it?


[MUSIC]


PEDRO: And then the meetings got bigger and bigger.


RITCHIE: We all came together. From different, uh, boroughs, from housing, from transit, patrol. And we all saying the same thing. 


PJ: And a lot of these cops had their own recordings from all over the city. The quota, the thing the police department said didn’t exist, you could hear their bosses pushing them to make it in tape after tape after tape.


COP: I want a ghost town. I want to be able to echo from one end of the street to the other, you understand? That’s what I want in a perfect world, so that’s your mission. You guys need collars, need activity, there you go. We gotta get you moving


COP 2: You realize you have the worst activity in the group? You need to catch up with everybody. 


COP 3: Uh--I don’t--


COP 2: --or you can continue to fight it, whichever one you find better, it’s up to you. 


COP 4: And if we do that, everybody chips in, it’s fine, it’s really non-negotiable because if you don’t do it now, I’m going to have you work with the boss to make sure it happens.


COP 5: So you only saw two male blacks jumpin’ turnstiles


COP 6: If you’re saying that’s what’s in front of you, then yes, that’s all I saw, is two male blacks were over here jumpin’ the turnstiles. That’s what you’re saying is in front of you. I’m not--


EDWIN RAYMOND: But when it comes to numbers, I’m not the lowest, you know. Even though we’re not supposed to care about numbers, I’m still not the lowest, so why all this extra effort with me? 


COP6 : You really want me to tell you what I think it is? You really want it [inaudible]?


EDWIN: Of course, because I need to understand this.


COP 6: You’re a young black man with dreads, very smart. And what do you call it, a loud say, meaning your words is loud. 


EDWIN: OK.


COP 6: You understand what I’m saying by that?


EDWIN: Yeah.


PJ: That last recording is of Edwin Raymond. He’s the other guy from the beginning of the story, the one who couldn’t understand why a 16-year-old girl was in jail for jumping a turnstile. Edwin said that watching the stop-and-frisk trial, he noticed this thing that gave him an idea for how to fight the whole system. 


He said watching that trial, he realized because so many of the stops the police department was making were not constitutional, they didn't really have a way to defend themselves in court. They couldn't justify it. He said there was one specific moment where this became crystal clear to him. 


Some of the most active cops, the guys who had written the most stop-and-frisks, were put on the stand, and they were asked a really simple question. The no. 1 justification that police officers gave in the 600,000 stop-and-frisks they did in 2011, was that the person they stopped had displayed furtive movements. And the lawyers just asked these cops, “What’s furtive mean?”


EDWIN: I think it was 19 cops. All 19 of them, one by one had to give the definition of furtive. Not one of them could define the word. 


PJ: What did they say?


EDWIN: They didn't know what to say. They- they–they, it was, they could not and–furtive is, it just means secret.


PJ: (laughs)


EDWIN: But then how do you, what is a secret movement? What is this? That is so ambiguous. A secret movement. You know, so then the question was, how could this be the number one reason that New Yorkers were stop-and-frisked? And the cops that wrote the most can't even give the definition. How can you say this is constitutional? What is the department going to say to that? It was embarrassing. And that's when it hit me like, huh? All we got to do is get the trial. All we got to do is get the trial.


[MUSIC]


NEWS CLIP (FEMALE ANCHOR): Truly explosive allegations in an I-Team exclusive interview. 


NEWS CLIP (MALE ANCHOR): They’re coming from police officers who are part of what’s being called the NYPD 12—12 cops, who filed a class action lawsuit in federal court. They claim the NYPD is breaking the law by pressuring officers to meet quotas for arrests and summonses and punishing those who don’t do it-- 


PJ: On Aug. 31, 2015, Edwin files his class action lawsuit: Raymond vs. the City of New York. It’s him, Pedro, Ritchie and nine other cops.


[MUSIC — LONE ELECTRIC BASS]


EDWIN: I’ve been a cop for eight years, and in the last eight years, I’ve unfortunately witnessed this quota destroy lives.


PJ: Edwin wants federal oversight over the New York City Police Department. He doesn’t want to get rid of CompStat, but he wants the government to come in and essentially fix it, stop the quota system, stop the arbitrary pressure for stops and summonses. 


Twenty-five years ago, Jack Maple did something impossible. He forced the NYPD, this completely immovable monolithic institution to change. He bent it in the direction that he thought was fair. 


JACK: See, the great thing about being a cop, is when you’re right in what you do, no one can tell you not to do it. When you’re a stock boy, right? And they say, don’t stock the shelves like that, do it like this, even though it’s screwed up, you gotta to do it. But when you're a policeman, and they’re telling you to do something that is not morally right to do, you can say, “No. I’m not doing it.” ’Cause this is the right thing, and I don’t care who you call in to make me do it, alright? They’re all afraid of the press. They’re afraid, that if you’re that stubborn and you’re saying no, who else are you gonna tell? 


[MUSIC ] 


PJ: The NYPD 12 is not fighting the same fight that Jack fought. They don’t have a friend at the top of the department, they’re getting death threats and all of the NYPD 12 are people of color trying to change a department that is still extremely white. If they’re able to accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish, it’s gonna be much harder. The judge in Edwin Raymond vs. The City of New York ruled against the NYPD 12. Their case was essentially thrown out. 


Since then, there have been some bright spots. The city lost a big lawsuit over summonses last year—a federal judge said that they were giving them out without probable cause. The city agreed to pay out as much as $75 million. But the main thing the NYPD 12 wants, the end of the quota, there hasn’t been much progress there. 


I talked to Pedro a few weeks ago. He said, “That’s alright. We always lose the first round of these cases. We’re actually in the process of filing an appeal.”


PJ: How are you feeling in general right now? Like how, how is it going?


PEDRO: How’s it going? It’s, um, the way I feel is they’re, they’re a very big and strong machine, and they could withstand almost anything. But because of...we’re reaching out so far, and it’s going so deep into the community, you know, I think something can happen. And um a lot of people in high positions are starting to make noise. Even chiefs! You know, there are certain chiefs that actually reached out to us.


PJ: Really?


PEDRO: And said, “Hey! Keep going!” Yeah. 


PJ: I didn’t expect you to sound so hopeful.


PEDRO: I am hopeful now. I think something can happen. I that, that think we are moving in-- to change. I think we might get something. 


[MUSIC]


[REPLY ALL THEME MUSIC]


Reply All is hosted by me, PJ Vogt, and Alex Goldman. Our show is produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Anna Foley, Simone Polanen, Jessica Yung and Kaitlin Roberts. The show’s edited by Tim Howard. Our intern is Heather Schröering. More editing help this week from Alex Blumberg, Sara Sarahson, Wallace Mack and Saki Kuhnahfo. We were mixed by Rick Kwan and Kate Bilinski, fact-checking by Michelle Harris. 


Also there’s a new documentary out called Crime + Punishment that follows Edwin and Pedro and the rest of the NYPD 12. It’s really good, you should go check it out. It’s on Hulu. 


Special thanks this week to David Ourlicht, Julio Diaz, Khrista Rypl and Chris Mitchell. 


Our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Original music in this episode from the extremely brilliant Tim Howard and Breakmaster Cylinder. Thanks to our additional musicians Anja Krieger on flute and Michael Brownell on upright bass. Recording help from Mark Lewis.


Matt Lieber is a walk in the woods. 


You can find more episodes of the show on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We'll see you soon.