Police Abduction by Quota

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A few months ago, Zebulun and Elijah Colbourne were among five New York City teenagers arrested and held overnight in jail in order to fill an official quota. The citation claimed that the teenagers, who had been racing in the sidewalks, were engaged in “tumultuous and violent conduct that caused public alarm.” They were given a summons, handcuffed, and held in a cell before being released the next morning without further action.

“They just wanted to arrest us,” Zebulun told WABC News. “They locked us up for nothing.” Well, not exactly for nothing: The arresting officer was able to tally five summonses toward his monthly quota.

Adil Polanco, a five-year veteran of the NYPD’s 41st Precinct in the Bronx, confirmed to WABC that police are under relentless official pressure to make arrests and issue summonses in order to meet arbitrary quotas.

“We are stopping kids walking upstairs to their house, stopping kids going to the store, young adults … [i]n order to keep the quota,” discloses Officer Polanco. “Our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.”

Like other decent people who become police officers out of a genuine desire to protect the rights and property of individuals — yes, such people do exist — Polanco is severely disillusioned by the reality of his profession.

“I’m not going to keep arresting innocent people, I’m not going to keep searching people for no reason, I’m not going to keep writing people [citations] for no reason, I’m tired of this,” declared a visibly disgusted Polanco.

Audio recordings played during the segment broadcast by WABC confirmed Polanco’s account.

One patrol supervisor told officers that unyielding and ever-increasing arrest and citation quotas would be part of their professional lives “until you decide to quit this job and become a Pizza Hut delivery man”; another supervising officer tells police that “you’re going to be doing a lot more, a lot more” by way of meeting arrest and citation quotas.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne insists that quotas — however euphemistically described — are “productivity goals” for police officers. He thereby offered a validating illustration of a principle repeatedly noted in this space: The only things that government actually makes are criminals out of innocent people, and corpses out of living human beings.

An unjustified arrest is an act of kidnapping. What Officer Polanco describes and WABC documents is nothing less than the systematic abduction of innocent people under color of state “authority.”

Polanco is neither the first nor only officer to confirm the widely known but officially denied truth that police are subject to arbitrary arrest and citation quotas.

Five years ago Cincinnati police officer Vincent George filed a grievance with the police union against the department’s use of arrest and ticket quotas. Like other Cincinnati police officers who failed or refused to meet those quotas, George suffered immediate professional retaliation in the form of a demotion to overnight desk duty.

A Washington Post story from 2004 described how police in Falls Church, Virginia were required “to write an average of three tickets, or make three arrests, every 12-hour shift, and to accumulate a minimum total of 400 tickets and arrests for year…. Failure to meet the quotas results in an automatic 90-day probationary period with no pay raise and a possible demotion or dismissal if ticket or arrest numbers aren’t immediately raised to acceptable levels. ”

In Illinois, pressure from police officials killed a proposed measure banning the use of arrest and ticket quotas, even though the same officials loudly deny that such quotas are in use.

As the Greater Depression deepens,  municipal revenue streams are being choked off and job opportunities are evaporating. Thus police are under ever-increasing pressure to carry out the predatory practice of  “taxation by citation” — with the prospect of financial ruin if they fail to produce the required number of “criminals.”

Whatever else can be said about Officer Adil Polanco, his public condemnation of police abduction by quota is an act of authentic heroism.

12:56 pm on March 4, 2010
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