A New York City police officer testified Tuesday that cops in his Bronx precinct were told by commanders that if they didn't deliver on a monthly "quota" for arrests, summonses and street stops, they'd face job sanctions and eventually get pushed out of the NYPD.
"They said it's not negotiable," said Officer Adhyl Polanco, an eight-year police veteran appearing at a closely watched federal trial challenging NYPD stop-and-frisk tactics. "Either you do it, or you're going to be a Pizza Hut delivery man."
Polanco's whistle-blower testimony appeared to buttress claims that a fivefold increase in stop and frisks under Commissioner Ray Kelly that peaked with 688,000 in 2011 resulted from a numbers-driven crime-fighting culture that disregarded the constitutional standard of "reasonable suspicion."
The plaintiffs in the class action case, who say stops disproportionately targeted minorities, are asking Manhattan U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin to rein in the NYPD's use of the tactic with better procedures and tighter monitoring. The city says stop-and-frisk is "proactive" policing that prevents crime.
Polanco, assigned to the 41st precinct in the South Bronx, said community policing activities were a low priority. But in 2009, Polanco said, officers were told at roll calls they were expected to produce "20 and 1" -- 20 summonses and one arrest -- in addition to five stop-and-frisk encounters every month.
At first the numbers were checked monthly, and later supervisors began checking whether officers had at least one of the three activities after every tour. Polanco, whose recordings of some roll calls are expected to be played when his testimony resumes Wednesday, said legal standards didn't matter to supervisors.
"They will never question the quality," he told Scheindlin. "They will question the quantity. How we got 'em, they don't care."
He said a sergeant made the Pizza Hut reference. "They said if we want to keep our partner we'd better come up with the numbers. If we wanted days off we better get it. If we wanted overtime we'd better do it," Polanco testified.
When he fell behind on his numbers, Polanco said, he would either be called to locations to write up stops or summonses actually handled by other officers, or ride around with a supervisor who would pick out targets on the street and order him to conduct a stop and frisk.
"You would have absolutely no discretion . . . because the prior month you didn't have your numbers," said Polanco, now on modified duty.