April V. Taylor
Pedro Serrano is an officer with the NYPD’s 40th precinct who secretly recorded his superiors telling him and other officers to target Black and Hispanic men between the ages of 14 and 21 to be stopped and frisked and that they had to meet certain stop and frisk quotas. Serrano reported that he and other officers were required to participate in van hunts where officers would ride around and a sergeant would point out people for the officers to write up. Serrano also reported that officers were required to write people up for minor offenses including “unreasonable noise,” “bicycle on sidewalk,” and “unlawfully in park after hours.” According to Serrano’s statements, officers operated under the theory that by flooding places that were considered criminal hot spots with cops and giving out summonses and performing stop and frisks that more serious crimes would be prevented. Seemingly as a result of these tactics, the 40th Precinct had the highest number of police stops in the Bronx in 2011.
In describing an incident where such an unconstitutional stop happened, he states, “…they rolled up to this poor Mexican guy sitting on the stairs and said: ‘Write him.’ I’m looking at Sarge, like, ‘What am I writing him for?’ The sarge said blocking pedestrian traffic.” Serrano states that he did as he was told, but he advised the men as he was writing their tickets that he was violating their rights and that they should write his name down and he would be a witness for them if they decided to sue the department.
The recordings Serrano made began when an officer gave him a video pen that he clipped to the front of his uniform pocket. He began using that and later an iPhone hoping that the recordings would protect him if he ever ran into serious trouble with his bosses as he had already experienced retaliation for speaking out about the unfairness of quotas and racial profiling. Serrano’s recordings include Lieutenant Stacy Barnett instructing officers that she was looking for the each to have five summonses or write-ups. This directly conflicts with the NYPD’s long held claim that they do not have quotas for summonses or write-ups.
Another recording Serrano made included a lieutenant talking about “five-five-five,” during a roll call. This demand was shorthand for officers being required to produce five summonses, five write-ups, and five “verticals,” which were sweeps of apartment buildings. Serrano also got a recording where cops were told to do “one and twenty,” which refers to one arrest and twenty summonses in a month.
Serrano eventually testified in U.S. District Court in the trial of Floyd v. City of New York, regarding the racial profiling used in the enforcement of the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy. His testimony lasted for two days as he discussed the pressure placed on officers as superiors shifted between soft and hard quotas about how many stop and frisks officers should perform and his superior McCormack advising him to stop black men between the ages of 14 and 21.
The case eventually led to the NYPD’s implementation of stop and frisk being ruled unconstitutional and an independent monitor being appointed to oversee reform efforts at the NYPD regarding stop and frisk. Serrano’s recording and testimony were an integral part of the case’s decision as he help provide irrefutable evidence of the department’s use of racial profiling and quotas.