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Adrian Schoolcraft: Caught in the Snake Pit

August 9, 2010

Whistleblower Adrian Schoolcraft is about to throw the book at the NYPD and Jamaica Hospital, charging in an explosive lawsuit that both of them conspired to imprison him in the hospital’s psychiatric ward for six days without any medical justification.

Schoolcraft maintains that, in a maneuver reminiscent of the old Soviet Union, his forced hospitalization was the culmination of an NYPD plan to harass, intimidate, and neutralize him because he had been reporting corruption.

In a document that his attorney, Jon Norinsberg, says he will file Monday in Manhattan federal court, Schoolcraft says the department tried to make him appear unstable to undercut his charges that 81st precinct supervisors ordered cops to arrest people who committed no crimes — just to meet quotas.

In previous interviews, Schoolcraft had charged that precinct commander Steven Mauriello low-balled crime statistics to make the Brooklyn precinct appear safer.

Under pressure from Brooklyn politicians, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly quietly transferred Mauriello to the Bronx over the July 4th weekend.

Department spokesman Paul Browne said the transfer was unrelated to Schoolcraft’s allegations.

In his lawsuit, Schoolcraft charges that 17 police officials — including Mauriello and his lieutenants and sergeants at the 81st precinct, two Brooklyn-based chiefs, and Browne — violated his civil rights.

Schoolcraft also charges that two doctors at Jamaica Hospital violated medical and ethical standards by accepting the opinions of police officers that Schoolcraft needed emergency medical care while ignoring medical evidence to the contrary.

In an interview over the weekend, Norinsberg explained that Browne had accompanied the dozen or so officers who went to Schoolcraft’s home in Queens on Oct 31st and, against his will, took him to the hospital.

This is the first indication that Browne — Kelly’s closest aide — played a role in Schoolcraft’s forced hospitalization.

If true — if Browne was indeed present with officers who raided Schoolcraft’s apartment — it raises the level of department responsibility, indicating that the raid was countenanced, if not directed, by Kelly.

Browne did not respond to this reporter’s email message. Inspector Kim Royster of the Public Information Office also did not respond.

Schoolcraft is seeking $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

A four-year navy veteran, Schoolcraft joined the NYPD in 2002. Fourteen months later, he began working at the 81st Precinct, where he remained until October 31, 2009. He maintains that, in his seven years in the NYPD, he had an exemplary record.

However, he objected to what he called “a pattern and practice of supervisors enforcing a de facto quota policy requiring police officers to issue a certain number of summonses and arrests per month.”

His impending court filing reads, “Additionally, plaintiff observed that performance evaluations were almost entirely based on adherence to this quota. Officers failing to meet the required amount were subject to work-related consequences, such as loss of overtime, tour changes, and denial of vacation days.”

When Mauriello took command of the precinct in 2006, Schoolcraft says he received explicit threats for failure to meet monthly arrest and summons quotas. Soon after, he says, he began to secretly tape-record roll call meetings.

Schoolcraft says in his lawsuit that, two years later, in December 2008, Mauriello berated his officers for not writing enough summonses per month. “Defendants were so obsessed with making their ‘numbers’ that they literally instructed officers to make arrests when there was no evidence of any criminal activity whatsoever.”

The lawsuit says that on Halloween, 2008, Mauriello ordered his officers to arrest virtually everybody they came in contact with at 120 Chauncey Street in Brooklyn, with or without probable cause. The suit charges that he said: “Everybody goes. I don’t care. You’re on 120 Chauncey and they’re popping champagne? Yoke ’em. Put them through the system. They got bandannas on, arrest them. Everybody goes tonight. They’re underage? Fuck it.”

When Schoolcraft resisted, his troubles started. On January 13, 2009, he says, Lt. Rafael Mascol summoned him and ordered him to increase his “overall activity” or he would be placed on “performance monitoring” and be subject to “low quarterly evaluations.”

On January 29, 2009, Schoolcraft received a poor performance evaluation, which he vowed to appeal. On February 1, 2009, he found a poster on his locker that warned, “If you don’t like your job, then maybe you should get another job.” He says that supervisors threatened him with retaliation if he pursued his appeal.

He received another unpleasant surprise, discovering that officers were conspiring to portray him as crazy. On March 16, 2009, a sergeant was overheard saying of Schoolcraft, “I’m going to have him psyched.”

After suffering chest pains on April 3, he says he was ordered to consult NYPD psychologist Dr. Catherine Lamstein. During that exam, Schoolcraft says he told her of the precinct’s illegal policies he had observed over the past year.

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Lamstein, he says, “abruptly excused herself from the room for several minutes and suddenly returned only to inform Schoolcraft that he was required to immediately surrender his gun and badge.”

During the summer of 2009, the precinct reassigned Schoolcraft to telephone switchboard duty.

Schoolcraft’s father, Larry, trying to help his son, contacted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office. That’s the first and only mention of Bloomberg in the lawsuit.

Larry Schoolcraft also reached out to David Durk, a former NYPD sergeant who had helped Frank Serpico report corruption within the NYPD during the 1970s. Durk contacted Brandon Del Pozo, a fast-tracked captain with an Ivy League background, at the Internal Affairs Bureau.

But Adrian Schoolcraft says IAB burned him when he tried to alert them about precinct corruption in August 2009. He says he contacted them directly about the precinct’s Integrity Control Officer, who, Schoolcraft maintained, entered a locked office and removed civilian complaints from a sergeant’s personnel folder because those documents could block the sergeant’s promotion to lieutenant.

Schoolcraft says he sent his report directly to Internal Affairs Chief Charles Campisi, via certified mail, on Aug. 20. IAB detectives, he says, subsequently left messages for Schoolcraft at the 81st precinct, violating IAB’s explicit duty to keep such complaints confidential, Schoolcraft charges.

The worst was yet to come.

On October 31, Schoolcraft charges that Lt. Timothy Caughey “confronted plaintiff and immediately ordered plaintiff to surrender his memo book.” Caughey then locked himself in a room for three hours to make copies of Schoolcraft’s notes, which included specific instances of illegal activity he had documented, his lawsuit charges.

Warned by a civilian co-worker that he might be in physical danger, Schoolcraft says he felt sick and left work an hour early.

The NYPD would not let him rest.

Dr. Lamstein called him at home and warned him that, if he did not return immediately, this would “blow up to a much bigger mess than [he] would want.”

Then, a dozen police officers arrived at his apartment, led by Chief Marino. “You have a choice,” Marino told him. “You get up like a man put your shoes on and walk into that [ambulance] or they’re going to treat you as an E.D.P. [emotionally disturbed person.]”

At Marino’s order, several officers then pulled Schoolcraft out of his bed, tore his clothes, threw him to the floor, strip-searched him, and violently handcuffed him with his arms behind his back, he charges.

With Marino sitting on his bed, the officers “illegally searched plaintiff’s body and recovered a digital recorder that plaintiff was holding,” the suit charges. The officers also searched Schoolcraft’s home and seized Schoolcraft’s notes about the 81st precinct.

Placing Schoolcraft in restraints, they carried him from his home against his will and in front of his friends and neighbors to Jamaica Hospital.

Once there, police officers “convinced doctors to have [Schoolcraft] involuntarily admitted as an emotionally disturbed person,” Schoolcraft charges, by falsely claiming that he “left work early after getting agitated and cursing his supervisor.”

The suit says that police lied to the doctors that Schoolcraft had barricaded himself inside his apartment and that they had to break down his door to get him out. In truth, says Schoolcraft, his landlord had given keys to the police.

For the next three days, Schoolcraft was locked in the psychiatric ward’s Emergency Room, forced to sleep on a gurney. He says he “repeatedly requested an opportunity to speak with Internal Affairs, and to have photographs taken of his multiple bruises,” but was ignored.

After three days, the hospital formally admitted him into the psychiatric ward, where conditions were worse. One patient combed his hair with feces. Another patient vomited next to Schoolcraft. Other patients in the unit routinely screamed and yelled until forcibly sedated.

The experience forced him to move upstate, he says, where the NYPD continued to dog him.

“Between December 2009 and continuing on through the present, armed NYPD officials continued their relentless efforts to silence, harass and/or otherwise harm [Schoolcraft] and his father in the form of making over a dozen appearances at his home in upstate New York,” his lawsuit says.

“During these ‘visits,’ the NYPD has dispatched teams of armed detectives and other armed members of the New York City Police Department to harass and intimidate plaintiff by pounding and kicking on his door and shouting ‘NYPD. We know you’re in there. Open up.’”

So, is Schoolcraft crazy, as the NYPD claims? Or have Kelly, Brown, Marino et al lost their bearings? Maybe it is the leadership of the NYPD who belong in a psychiatric ward.

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