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Officer Serrano’s Hidden Camera

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Deputy Inspector McCormack got his turn on the stand on May 13. He disputed Serrano’s claim that he had been punished for not doing enough summonses or stop-and-frisks. When asked whether he set quotas for his officers, McCormack said, “Absolutely, positively not.” Asked why he told Serrano to stop “male blacks 14 to 20, 21,” he explained there had been a rash of robberies in and around the Mott Haven and Patterson housing projects, and that he was referring to “the victims’ statements of who the perpetrators were.”

Considering that the 4-0 is an “extremely violent location”—10,000 crimes reported a year, 123 shootings in the past two years—he said Serrano needed to be much more proactive. “I was very worried that, with his actions, that he was not handling his conditions, and it was not fair to the community.” Though Serrano had increased his numbers of arrests from five to eight between 2011 and 2012, McCormack said that in such a violent precinct, “it’s by far not enough.” He also insisted he only wanted “quality” summonses that address the right “conditions.” “I don’t need numbers for numbers,” McCormack said. “I don’t need old men stopped in parks for minor park violations.”

On the website Thee Rant—formerly known as NYPD Rant—commenters, mostly officers past and present, feasted on Serrano’s testimony.

“You wear a wire, you are a rat. That’s its. [sic] Men that disagree with their boss don’t record them. Fu-cking coward!”

“This guy needs to find his locker in the East River.”

“The Cop is a fat slob do nothing … I hope other Cops avoid him like the plague.”

A few who said they worked with McCormack weighed in, too: “Chris is extremely gung ho, they don’t call him Red Rage for nothing … He genuinely believes he is doing God’s work out there. When I was a crime sergeant he would go out with us at least three times a week and would always be the first one to jump out of the car to toss someone. He hates perps. The other thing he hates is laziness. He will do anything for people who work. He will also f*ck with people who refuse to work. And that’s what this is all about.”

There were also those commenters who agreed with Serrano. One wrote: “99 ­percent of 250s are utterly useless … Stopping the wrong people just leads to hostility between the PD and the people.” Another commenter wrote: “Sadly many cops don’t understand what a legit legal SQF [stop, question, and frisk] is and think what they are doing is legal police work. Bosses like McCormack want to keep it that way so cops keep writing … McCormack could have explained during the recording after being asked a half a dozen different ways who the ‘right people’ were. He could have simply said, ‘people that you have reasonable suspicion that they committed a crime or are about to commit one.’ Of course he didn’t say that because if his cops actually followed that legal standard his SQF numbers would take a nose dive.”

The trial’s closing arguments are scheduled for May 20, but both sides will have to wait for Judge Scheindlin’s decision, and no date has been set for when she’ll hand it down. Depending on what she decides, the NYPD could find itself answering to an independent court-appointed monitor charged with overseeing the reform of stop-and-frisk—an outcome both the police commissioner and mayor have been aggressively fighting.

Back at work at the 40th Precinct, Serrano felt as if his head were on a swivel; he was hyperaware of everything, watching everybody closely, trying to read everyone’s expressions. After he finished testifying, he had traveled straight from the courthouse back to the station house to sign out for the day. The moment McCormack saw him, he recalls, he started hollering: “Make sure you sign out! Yesterday you didn’t sign out!” When Serrano tried to explain that he actually had signed out the day before, he says, McCormack just walked away.

As for his fellow cops at the 4-0, Serrano discovered that they fell into three camps. One third supported him (“They were like: ‘We get it, no problem’ ”); another third were furious (“They think what I did is wrong”); and the rest were neutral (“They were like, ‘We don’t care either way; we just don’t like the bad stuff that’s coming because he’s pissed off now’ ”).

Serrano had expected the anger and hostility. What surprised him was how many cops went out of their way to speak to him. Not just friends but even officers he didn’t get along with, and a few supervisors, too. “Every time I was by myself, people would approach me and tell me the same thing: ‘Listen, I can’t shake your hand, man, but good job.’ ”


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