“I was extremely bothered by what I was seeing out there,” said New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Adhyl Polanco on the stand during testimony last month. “The racial profiling, the arresting people for no reason, being called to scenes that I did not observe a violation and being forced to write a summons that I didn’t observe.”
Polanco is one of a growing number of whistleblowers within the NYPD speaking out against “stop-and-frisk” — a policy that allows police officers to stop citizens and search them for contraband on the street. Since enacted as police procedure in 2002, the NYPD has conducted 5 million searches, 84 percent have targeted young African-American and Latino residents.
Polanco, along with fellow officers Adrian Schoolcraft and Pedro Serrano, secretly recorded hours of patrol briefings and meetings with superior officers. The audio was played during the current federal trial meant to determine if Black and Hispanic men are unfairly targeted because of their race by the NYPD.
He also testified to the fact that quotas were in place requiring him to write at least 20 summonses, conduct five street stops and arrest one person each month.
Similarly, Serrano has audio recordings of conversations with his superior, Christopher McCormack, ordering him to stop “the right people, [at] the right time, [at] the right location.” The officer then asks, “So what am I supposed to do, stop every Black and Hispanic?”
In response, McCormack is heard saying, “I have no problem telling you this. Male Blacks. And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem [to] tell you this, male Blacks [aged] 14 to 21.”
After speaking out, the officers claim they are facing harassment and mistreatment by their colleagues in the police force.
Serrano reports finding a sticker of a rat pasted to his locker and says that he feels micromanaged — including being transferred to a different precinct to work an overnight shift. He also claimed that he was refused overtime hours during his erratic schedule.
“A lot of people told me not to come forward because of what would happen — they said the department would come after me,” Serrano said. “But I’ve been thinking about it since 2007. I felt I couldn’t keep quiet.”
Polanco was suspended from duty and charged with filing false arrest paperwork after he detailed a list of grievances to the police department’s internal affairs. He now works in a video review department.
The officers may face harassment but are not alone in their condemnation of the NYPD policies that civil liberties groups believe target minorities. State Senator Eric Adams (D-N.Y.), a former NYPD officer who retired in 2006, reported that NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly told him that stop-and-frisk was created to “instill fear” in young African Americans and Latinos.
“[Kelly] stated that he targeted and focused on that group because he wanted to instill fear in them, that every time that they left their homes they could be targeted by police,” Adams testified in the same ongoing trial.
These testimonies are underscored by recent reports published by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a leading rights group also in opposition to the policy policy.
Using NYPD statistics, the ACLU reports that the vast majority of those stopped by police have been young African American and Latino men. Since 2002, the NYPD has conducted nearly 5 million stops on New Yorkers, most of whom were released after police fail to find any weapons or drugs.
Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.