Whistleblower settles with NYPD after outing quota system

Stephon Johnson | 12/17/2015, 4:18 p.m.
New York Police Department officer Craig Matthews said he felt the brunt of retaliation after telling his supervisors of a ...

New York Police Department officer Craig Matthews said he felt the brunt of retaliation after telling his supervisors of a quota system in the Bronx’s 42nd Precinct. He’s now close to settling with the NYPD.

Last week, the New York Civil Liberties Union announced that New York City has agreed to expunge a retaliatory negative work evaluation and pay more than $280,000 to Matthews, a 17-year veteran of the force. Under the proposed settlement, the city will pay $125,000 in damages, more than $30,000 in lost overtime wages and $130,000 in legal fees.

Back in 2012, the NYCLU—on Matthews’ behalf—filed suit. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February that the officer’s speech was protected by the First Amendment, which allowed his counsel to proceed with the proposed settlement the organization filed with the court last week. The settle still needs to be approved by the federal district court in Manhattan.

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, who was lead counsel during Matthews’ lawsuit against the city, said that the fact that the NYPD is willing to settle speaks volumes.

“This settlement completely vindicates officer Matthews, who had the courage to speak out about illegal police quotas and suffered serious retaliation for having done so,” said Dunn in a statement. “Quota systems in the NYPD drove the explosion of unlawful stops and arrests during the Bloomberg administration and seriously damaged police-community relations.

“Officer Matthews was right to object to the quota system in his precinct, and this settlement establishes that police officers will be protected when they blow the whistle on unlawful NYPD policies,” continued Dunn.

After reporting to his supervisors of a quota system that led to unjustified stops and arrests in the 42nd Precinct, Matthews stated that he was subjected to a wide range of retaliation, including being given punitive assignments, denied overtime and leave, given poor evaluations, subjected to constant harassment and threats and being separated from his on-duty partner.

“A strong, effective law enforcement agency needs police officers that speak out against misconduct when they see it,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Erin Harrist, who worked as co-counsel on the case, in a statement She said that the settlement “reflects the significant value of police officers’ and public employees’ free speech rights.”

The issues at the 42nd Precinct were endemic of a wider issue that was exposed in May 2010 by the Village Voice. In a series of articles, the paper exposed a quota system inside the walls of the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn via audio tapes provided by NYPD officer Adrian Schoolcraft. Later on, a Queens-based officer said that in order to boost arrest numbers, officers planted cocaine on innocent people.