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Adrian Schoolcraft: He's No Serpico

October 5, 2015

Police officer Adrian Schoolcraft’s relatively meager $600,000 settlement last week [at least when compared to the $41 million paid to the Central Park Five] leads me to ask: who is this guy?

Is he a legitimate whistleblower or a nut?

Is his settlement — which also calls for another $600,000 in back pay and an annual $30,000 pension that kicks in in seven years when he is vested — a cave-in after he promised to air his grievances as part of a $50 million lawsuit against the city?

Or is this the first step in a settlement with Jamaica Hospital, which confined Schoolcraft to its psych ward for five days against his will at the NYPD’s direction?

A trial on that suit, scheduled to start Oct. 19, may provide some answers.

Schoolcraft has claimed that his hospital confinement was retaliation for exposing the downgrading of crimes in Brooklyn’s 81st precinct. The NYPD subsequently confirmed that commanders in the 81st precinct did alter crime statistics, and transferred or brought departmental charges against five supervisors.

The department also maintained Schoolcraft was a slacker and malcontent, who left his post without permission on Oct 31, 2009, which is where his story begins.

In its inimitable way, the NYPD overreacted, breaking into his apartment that evening and forcibly taking him to Jamaica Hospital. Schoolcraft secretly recorded the break-in, during which, in chilling detail, tough-guy chief Mike Marino can be heard saying, “Adrian, 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].

Which is exactly what they did.

Upon Schoolcraft’s release, he refused to return to his job and with his father Larry moved upstate. There the NYPD pursued them, making a dozen appearances at their home, which, Larry said, involved pounding and kicking on their door and shouting “NYPD. We know you’re in there.” At one point the NYPD contacted local police to serve a warrant on them.

Larry, who appeared to be calling the shots, hired and fired half a dozen lawyers, then ended up rehiring his original one. He wasn’t just interested in pursuing his son’s case. He seemed to want a public airing of all sorts of unrelated corruption issues.

“The father wants us to go after Kelly [then commissioner Ray Kelly], Bloomberg [then Mayor Michael Bloomberg], the FBI, everyone under the sun,” said one of his lawyers. According to the lawyer, the Schoolcrafts initially refused last week’s settlement. “Until the last minute we were not sure they would accept,” he said.

Over the years, their behavior became increasingly bizarre. For months at a time they would disappear. They continually changed their phone numbers. At one point, one of the lawyers asked Frank Serpico, who lived nearby and had befriended them, to track them down.

Serpico, who 45 years before had exposed the department’s widespread, systemic corruption, is an iconic figure and an inspiration for people like Adrian. Unlike Adrian, he never sued the city.

“The department wants to undermine all that they stand for by painting them as malcontents, nuts, psychos,” Serpico said in 2012. “The danger for Adrian is that his message may be lost and the department let off the hook.”

Serpico also struggled in dealing with Larry, who, it turned out, had been a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas and had sued that police department on grounds similar to Adrian’s in New York. His claims were dismissed in 2000 by a Texas Appeals court, records show.

Serpico is no longer in contact with him or Adrian.

So what to conclude? One thing we can say with certainty is that Adrian Schoolcraft is no Frank Serpico.

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