Cop in stop-frisk case defends recording

People walk by a Times Square police precinct People walk by a Times Square police precinct in Manhattan. (July 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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An NYPD precinct commander in Brooklyn told his cops they could face job sanctions if they didn't "go through the motion and get your numbers," according to new secret recordings of police roll calls played Tuesday in a federal court challenge to the city's stop-and-frisk tactics.

Deputy Insp. Steven Mauriello, who headed the 81st Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant from 2007 until 2010, was also heard on tape telling officers that anyone with a bandanna hanging from their rear end should be stopped and questioned, because it was a sign of gang affiliation.

But Mauriello, testifying before U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan, said that the 31 tapes with comments from him and other supervisors in the 81st telling cops to clear street corners and "articulate" legal cause later, were motivational efforts that patrol officers knew to carry out in a legal manner.

"My officers know the law," Mauriello said. "They're trained and experienced. They knew what I meant."

Plaintiffs in the case contend that references to "numbers" at the 81st and other precincts reflected a quota system for street stops that led to thousands of illegal stops disproportionately targeting minorities. Street stops quintupled to more than 600,000 during the last decade, with more than 80 percent involving blacks and Latinos.

The tapes in the 81st Precinct were made in 2008 and 2009 by Officer Adrian Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft, who has been suspended by the NYPD, is not expected to testify. Eighteen tapes were played two weeks ago, and 13 more Tuesday.

Mauriello conceded that lieutenants and sergeants in his command talked on several tapes about the pressure for "numbers," and even specified quantities of violations and stops on some occasions. But he said the specific targets were "news to me," and said numbers were just a way to make sure cops were active, not lazy.

"They want officers to work," said Mauriello, now an official in the NYPD's transit bureau. "That's it."

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