NYPD Quota Scandal: For Detained Whistle-Blower, a Hospital Bill, Not an Apology

Officer Adrian Schoolcraft has filed a suit against New York City. Richard Perry/The New York Times

NY Times | Mar 15, 2012


It was not until 6 in the morning on Nov. 1, 2009, that Officer Adrian Schoolcraft finally had access to a telephone. The night before, he had been brought to the psychiatric emergency room at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center on the orders of his police bosses.

Since then, his left hand had been cuffed to a gurney and he had been guarded by officers from the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn, where he worked.

He rolled the gurney to the phone and dialed a number, but the call was immediately disconnected by a sergeant, who said, “Hey, I thought perps weren’t allowed to use the phone,” according to a federal lawsuit that Officer Schoolcraft has filed against the city, saying he was punished for whistle-blowing.

Then, the suit charges, six officers pushed Officer Schoolcraft back down on the gurney, and a second handcuff was tightened around his left wrist.

Officer Schoolcraft was not, however, a perp — as the police call someone charged with a crime.

He was a police officer who had accurately reported wrongdoing by his supervisors, and who had left work an hour early the previous day. The very people he implicated — and who knew that he had — decided that his early departure and failure to answer the telephone constituted a psychiatric emergency. Led by a deputy chief and a deputy inspector, officers raided his apartment and brought him in cuffs to the psychiatric emergency room. Throughout the encounter in his home, which was secretly captured on audiotape, Officer Schoolcraft sounds calm, and not like a threat to anyone. His suit claims that the hospitalization, which lasted six days, was meant to shut him up.

The second cuff was fastened so tightly that his hand turned blue, the lawsuit says.

It brings to mind another hospital patient manacled by the left hand, and the reaction of the mayor and the police commissioner at the time. On a summer night in 1997, Abner Louima, mistakenly identified as a man who had punched an officer, was led into a toilet stall at the 70th Precinct station house and raped with a stick, an assault that nearly killed him.

At Coney Island Hospital, Mr. Louima was handcuffed to the rails of his bed until the atrocity was reported by Mike McAlary, a columnist with The Daily News.

Within a day, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir swept out senior officers in the precinct, put others on desk duty and stood at the bedside of Mr. Louima. His hand was uncuffed. “The alleged conduct involved is reprehensible, done by anyone, at any time,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Done by police officers, it’s even more reprehensible.”

OF course, the story of Mr. Schoolcraft’s confinement — which, seen in its worst light, is in a dimension different from the torture of Mr. Louima — took much longer to unfold, first emerging in The Daily News in February 2010, three months afterward, and then in the May 4, 2010, edition of The Village Voice. The superiors involved in the misreported crimes were eventually transferred by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly without public explanation, although an internal report affirmed Officer Schoolcraft’s accusations.

But on Officer Schoolcraft’s forced hospitalization, neither Mr. Kelly, nor his boss, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, has had anything substantial to say. The Bloomberg administration continues to refuse to release any internal reports on the matter, saying the records are sealed by court order — although the city’s own lawyers asked for the order.

Unlike Mr. Giuliani, who thundered in the Louima case, Mr. Bloomberg seems to be shrugging at what, if true, also amounts to a grotesque abuse.

“While the police may bring someone who is potentially at risk to themselves or others to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation, they have no say over who is admitted or for how long,” Frank Barry, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, said this week. “That’s up to the mental health professionals at the hospital.”

Rather than absolving the mayor of responsibility, that circumstance amplifies it. Jamaica’s spokesman, who did not return a phone call on Thursday, has said that the doctors relied on the observations of the police officers. A doctor wrote that Officer Schoolcraft’s “insight and judgment” were impaired, but also noted that he was “coherent, relevant with goal-directed speech and good eye contact.” The doctor also wrote: “He is irritable with appropriate affect.”

Dressed only in a gown, he spent three days in the psychiatric emergency room, then another three days in a locked ward among seriously disturbed people, with no phone, clock or mirror.

After his father tracked him down and brought him home, Jamaica Hospital Medical Center sent Adrian Schoolcraft a bill for $7,185.

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