Judge: NYPD destroyed cop’s notes on alleged arrest quota system

The ruling says a discrimination lawsuit filed by four officers was 'unfairly harmed' by the notes' destruction

Stephen Rex Brown
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The NYPD and city Law Department destroyed a cop’s memo book that documented an alleged racist arrest quota system, a judge has ruled.

Bronx cop Pedro Serrano says he routinely kept notes in real time of the allegations at the heart of his suit claiming supervisors at the 40th Precinct ordered arrests of black and Hispanic men. The supervisors allegedly treated minority cops more harshly than white colleagues and denied promotions if they refused.

A judge ruled the NYPD destroyed evidence when Officer Pedro Serrano's notes detailing alleged departmental racism were destroyed.
A judge ruled the NYPD destroyed evidence when Officer Pedro Serrano's notes detailing alleged departmental racism were destroyed. (Photo/TNS)

“Serrano alleges that he wrote everything down in his memo books, including information regarding the quota, downgrading felonies, a hostile work environment, general corruption, and retaliations against him in the 40th Precinct,” Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave wrote in a decision late Thursday, imposing a “serious sanction” on the city.

On Feb. 1, 2013 Serrano filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint claiming discrimination and retaliation and told the NYPD he’d lawyered up. Just over two weeks later, an NYPD Integrity Control Officer took Serrano’s memo book. That was the last time he saw his notes.

Five years later, the city Law Department — after initially saying they would turn the memo book over to Serrano’s attorneys — admitted they didn’t have it.

“The city chose to ignore the ethical guidelines in which our legal system is based by destroying Pedro Serrano’s memo books,” Serrano’s attorney John Scola said. Both the Law Department and NYPD were culpable, he added.

That missing piece of evidence had unfairly harmed the lawsuit Serrano and three other cops are pursuing against the city, the judge ruled. If the case reaches a jury, a judge will instruct them that “there is a likelihood that the destroyed memo book would have supported Serrano’s claims of adverse employment action and retaliation,” Cave wrote. Such an instruction puts the city at a major disadvantage.

The decision is the latest development in the long-running, unusually contentious quotas case. The suit has revealed allegations of a “collars for dollars” program in which cops who arrested blacks and Hispanics were rewarded with overtime. A supervisor in NYPD Transit District 34 ordered that Asian, Jewish and white people — known as “soft targets” — not be slapped in cuffs, according to the suit.

Attorneys for Serrano had sought to depose former NYPD Commissioners Bill Bratton and James O’Neill about the alleged quotas. Cave denied those requests, ruling the questioning of the ex-top cops was unnecessary.

The Law Department stood by its argument that photos of five pages of the memo book were sufficient to have not harmed Serrano’s case. Two of the photographed pages are blank and one has only three lines of information.

“We take our discovery obligations seriously. The court denied plaintiffs much of the irrelevant information they were seeking to support their meritless claims," Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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