In 2010, Maximo and Jose Colon were cleared of falsified drug charges made by Detective Stephen Anderson and Officer Henry Tavarez, NYPD narcotics officers. Video tape revealed that the alleged cocaine deal never occurred, furthering the case in the Colon brothers favor. The two brothers later received a reported $300,000 in a tax-payer funded settlement. Tavarez resigned from the NYPD after pleading guilty to felony charges of falsifying an affidavit.
In the interest of transparency, this was a case that I passionately and successfully fought, along with attorney Christina Hall. At some point during the case, I was reached by the New York Daily News for comment. The article quoted me saying, “I believe they were motivated by overtime and arrest numbers…the more arrests they brought in, the more overtime money they would make.” My comment holds especially true in light of Anderson’s latest testimony that exposed just how widespread and dangerous this issue was.
Stephen Anderson, cooperating with prosecutors, recently testified that he had faked drug charges on multiple occasions in order to meet NYPD quotas. His testimony revealed new insight into the falsification and quota culture of the Brooklyn South and Queens narcotics squads. However, Anderson’s testimony is not the first evidence into this type of police corruption in New York.
Brooklyn Federal Judge, Jack Weinstein, stated much the same during his decision regarding Anderson’s case. Judge Jack Weinstein wrote, “Informal inquiry by [myself] and among the judges of this court, as well as knowledge of cases in other federal and state courts…has revealed anecdotal evidence of repeated, widespread falsification by arresting officers of the New York City Police Department.”
The repeated reports of drug planting, falsification of affidavits and lying under oath by law enforcement officers is alarming enough. However, this evidence should be a giant red flag about the official and unofficial policy of the NYPD itself. A system of quotas that is actively encouraged is not compatible with justice. The lack of arrests by a police officer should not indicate incompetence, just as a long record of arrests should not indicate above-average abilities.
The big question is what happens next? Will Anderson’s testimony call into question the arrests made by the other officers he observed falsifying charges? Can the NYPD create a system of police officer evaluation that does not rely on quotas?
As a Queens civil rights attorney and former prosecutor with the New York District Attorney’s Office of Special Narcotics, I remain deeply involved in these issues of NYPD police misconduct. While the New York City Police have a tough job and deserve media attention, this may not be the type they want.