It’s always depressing when allegations that police target African-Americans are confirmed not just by eyewitness accounts, but with audio or video evidence. Recently, a NYPD officer provided Gawker with chilling audio that sounds a whole lot like his boss pressuring him into profiling black men.
Michael Birch recorded the audio in 2012 when he was called to a performance evaluation meeting with his commanding officer and a lieutenant in August 2012. He told the publication that he was expecting to hear that he wasn’t generating enough “activity” — which meant he would be ordered to arrest more people and issue more summonses — but “the conversation just turned completely weird to” him when he was flat-out told to racially profile.
“Who commits the crimes in the city?” commanding officer, Constantin Tsachas, who was recently cleared for a promotionfrom captain to deputy inspector,asks in this rather damning clip.
Birch answers that it’s “mostly teenagers, anywhere between the ages of 15 and 19, mostly male blacks and Hispanics.” Asked who he is stopping, Birch explains that he stops “everybody..”
“Fifty-four [TABs] up to 8/20,” the commanding officer says. “Twenty-five of those are female. Half.”
“Like I said, I stop everybody,” Birch replies.” I’m not targeting anybody.”
“You just told me who the bad guys are,” his CO presses.
“Yeah, I know that. But there’s also other people who are committing violations as well,” Birch says. “I’m not saying that there’s not violations being made.”
In other words, people from all demographics break the law. That should have been good enough for the commanding officer, but then the conversation went completely off the rails:
“Pop” is a term for when a warrant pops up and leads to an arrest. TAB is a term for a court summons resulting from a transit violation. The conversation continues, getting worse as it progresses:
“I was shocked,” Birch said of the meeting. “I was not only shocked, I was mad. My last name is Birch. I look white. They didn’t realize I was a Puerto Rican kid, and they’re just saying this to me like it’s OK. It’s OK, we’re amongst friends.”
“I don’t want to be stopped because I’m Puerto Rican,” he says. “I want to get stopped because I did something wrong.”
Birch is suing the department to combat “what he sees as a larger trend of policing that disproportionately affects minority New Yorkers,” Gawker reports. “The targeting of minorities by the NYPD has caused so many problems throughout our city yet the NYPD continues to promote officers who engage in these activities,” his lawyer told the publication.
“It’s very hard to have a job where the whole public is against you, including your bosses. And when you actually try to do something right, they don’t care,” Birch says. “I can’t wait to get away from this place.”
Birch is evidence that good cops do exist. The problem is that, unlike him, most good cops stay silent as bad actors disgrace the profession, unfairly targeting people who are not white. Thank you for stepping forward, Officer Birch. Hopefully, your example will lead other good cops to call out the bad ones.
Hear the audio for yourself below: