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NY police whistleblower Adhyl Polanco still paying price for telling truth

Carla Murphy | 12/26/2013, 6 a.m.
NYPD officer Adhyl Polanco secretly recorded his commanding officers giving orders to meet arrest quotas. (Courtesy of Adhyl Polanco)

You didn’t have to think about it?

Oh, hell no. And he was surprised, too. He said, “Are you sure?” I say, “Yeah, let’s go.” In April 2010, I give the deposition and a day later, when I get back to work, I get suspended, no reason given. They sent me to Internal Affairs every day to sign a piece of paper and go home. They didn’t give me a reason, they only tell me it came down from the commissioner’s office.

I knew the cost of speaking out was very high. It’s unheard of, going against the culture, the blue wall. At that time, [Officer Adrian] Schoolcraft had come out. [Officer Frank] Palestro had come out. We had the same stories and they all got buried.

Do you think NYPD is a racist organization?

There’s still a lot of racism in the police department. When they see somebody in the projects doing whatever, they call them savages. I been with white cops and I even hear, “Look at the f— savage.” That’s how they refer to black people: savages. It bothers me a lot.

To that point, outgoing Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly point to the NYPD being a lot more diverse. For example, it’s one-third Latino now. Some people might ask: ‘How can it be racist?’

If I give you a job to look at that tree right there [Polanco points] — and you’re black, Chinese, whatever, you’re still gonna’ watch that tree. You can change the people in the department but until you change the nature and the culture, you’re still doing the same thing.

You grew up in Washington Heights, a Dominican immigrant enclave located just north of Harlem. Do people in the old neighborhood know you’re a part of this big case?

Not a lot of them know. They don’t care. Spanish people, they don’t want to deal with police. They don’t want to talk against police. They’re more focused on daily life. More focused on, “If I don’t get in to work today I’m not going to have money to eat tomorrow.” It’s a different way of seeing things.

Sounds like you understand.

Yeah, I definitely do. But, somebody has to step up. Crime was off the bazoo when I was growing up. The day we don’t have a shooting, something was wrong. And yet where I lived I didn’t have any interaction with the police. Because they knew who the dealers were and they knew who was working people. They distinguished between drug dealers and people who were living their lives.

And that distinction’s been lost?

You have a lot of criminals in the South Bronx and they’re all black and Hispanic; I’m not going to argue that. But the problem is not whether you stop black or blue. The problem is whether you stop innocent black or criminal black — or [as a cop] you don’t even know the difference [between the two]. The NYPD says, the community is 90 percent black: How’re we not gonna stop black? That’s their argument.