What happens to Police Whistle Blowers?-Pulled from apartment and put in a Psych Ward
An Officer Had Backup: Secret Tapes
By JIM DWYER
Published: March 13, 2012
One night in October 2009, a team of police officers, led by a deputy chief, raided the home of a police officer named Adrian Schoolcraft, and dragged him out of his bed and to the psychiatric emergency room at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. He was held for six days in a locked ward. No judge was involved. There was no hearing.
The decision to take him to the hospital was made solely by armed men who happened to be his superior officers in the Police Department with a vested interest in shutting him up.
For more than a year, Officer Schoolcraft had been collecting information about what appeared to be illegal arrests and manipulation of crime statistics in the 81st Precinct, in Brooklyn. Along the way, he secretly recorded orders from supervisors to lock up people without cause. He also documented cases in which armed robberies were classified as “lost property” cases. A few weeks before he was seized in his home, he met with investigators for the Internal Affairs Bureau and told them about what he had uncovered. He began recording after his bosses accused him of loafing because he was not meeting their goals for arrests and summonses.
To date, neither Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg nor Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly have publicly discussed why Officer Schoolcraft was thrown into a psychiatric ward. On Tuesday, that silence continued: both the city’s Law Department and the Police Department declined to discuss the Schoolcraft situation because he is now suing the city.
A secret police inquiry into Officer Schoolcraft’s charges vindicated his account of crime report manipulation, but its findings only became public thanks to reporting by Graham Rayman, a writer for The Village Voice. Disciplinary charges have been brought or are pending against several officers.
However, the sole public documentation of the forced hospitalization comes from recordings made by Officer Schoolcraft, portions of which were posted online with a Village Voice article. In addition, the public radio show “This American Life” did a report on Officer Schoolcraft’s case that included excerpts.
ACCORDING to a federal lawsuit filed by Officer Schoolcraft, a supervisor spent half of the day on Oct. 31, 2009, copying pages from Officer Schoolcraft’s notebook, which included detailed accounts of what he had viewed as misconduct. Alarmed by this and not feeling well, the suit says, Officer Schoolcraft asked and received permission from a sergeant to leave an hour before the end of his shift.
Around 6:30 p.m., a group of police officers arrived outside Officer Schoolcraft’s apartment in Queens. He did not answer the door, and they entered three hours later, using the landlord’s key.
Among those who showed up were Deputy Chief Michael Marino, a senior police official in Brooklyn, and Deputy Inspector Steven Mauriello, the commander of the 81st Precinct.
Although police supervisors would later tell the psychiatric staff at the hospital that Officer Schoolcraft had barricaded himself in his home and run from them, the recording does not support that version. Officer Schoolcraft sounds calm — a term used to describe him in the hospital reports, which also stated that he had no “significant psychiatric symptoms.”
“Get your stuff on,” Inspector Mauriello said. “We’re going back to the precinct.”
“I’m not going back to the precinct,” Officer Schoolcraft responded. The inspector said they needed to investigate why he had left early, and Officer Schoolcraft said it was because he was not feeling well. They sparred verbally for a minute. Chief Marino interrupted.
“Listen to me, I’m a chief in the New York City Police Department, and you’re a police officer,” the chief said. “So this is what’s going to happen, my friend. You’ve disobeyed an order. And the way you’re acting is not right.”
“Chief, if you were woken up in your house ——” Officer Schoolcraft began.
“Stop right there, son,” the chief said.
“—— how would you behave?” Officer Schoolcraft continued.
“Son, I’m doing the talking right now, not you,” the chief said.
“In my apartment,” Officer Schoolcraft said.
“In your apartment,” Chief Marino said. “You are going ——”
“Is this Russia?” Officer Schoolcraft said.
Told he was going to be suspended, the officer said that they should write him up. A paramedic found that Officer Schoolcraft’s blood pressure was very high, but he said he was refusing medical assistance. The inspector and the chief said he was acting irrationally, and the chief ordered him handcuffed. As he was brought to the floor, a small recorder was discovered in his clothing.
“Recording devices, and everything else,” Chief Marino said. “So he’s playing a game here. Cute.”
In fact, another recorder, on a bookshelf, was still running. “It didn’t have to be like this,” Chief Marino is heard saying.
At that moment, the lawsuit charges, the chief had his boot on Officer Schoolcraft’s face.
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