In an exclusive report from Gawker, audio from a 2012 performance evaluation allegedly secretly recorded by NYPD cop Michael Birch seems to show his commanding officer pressuring him to racially profile African Americans. During the meeting, Birch expected to be chastised for not generating enough “activity” – meaning he needed to up his citations and arrests for people jumping subway turnstiles and cellphone theft.
Instead, according to Birch, the conversation turned “weird” when his superior told him “it’s OK to racially profile.”
Birch handed over to Gawker what he claims to be a recording he made during the meeting unbeknownst to his commanding officer. In the recording, the commanding officer questions Birch as to why he only detained 2 black people out of 54.
In January, Birch filed a federal lawsuit against the city and several individual NYPD officials, alleging that he was retaliated against for speaking out about what he calls an illegal quota system. A judge dismissed his complaint, and he filed an appeal with a higher court last month.
(On the recording, the men make reference to “TABs” and summonses that “pop.” TAB is NYPD jargon for a summons issued for a transit violation such as turnstile jumping; according to Birch, “popping” refers to when a summons leads to an arrest, because the person you’ve stopped has a warrant against them.)
Here’s a transcript of the audio, which can be found at the bottom of this article:
Commanding Officer: Who commits the crimes in the city?
Birch: Who commits the crimes? Well, it’s mostly teenagers, anywhere between the ages of 15 and 19, mostly male blacks and Hispanics.
CO: Who are you stopping?
Birch: Everybody. I stop everybody.
CO: Fifty-four TABs up to 8/20. Twenty-five of those are female. Half.
Birch: Like I said, I stop everybody. I’m not targeting anybody.
CO: You just told me who the bad guys are.
Birch: Yeah, I know that. But there’s also other people who are committing violations as well. I’m not saying that there’s not violations being made.
CO: The male blacks, that you told me commit the crimes—
Birch: Plenty of people that I write summonses to are male blacks and male Hispanics.
CO: You stopped two male blacks.
Birch: Not for the whole year. You’re telling me for the whole year I only stopped two male blacks on summonses?
CO: 8/20. From January 1st to August 20th. Fifty-four TABs: two male blacks, seven Hispanics, seven other, ten white, three Asian. So where are you targeting the perps that you just told me?
Birch: Like I said, if I don’t see a perp jumping over the turnstile, what am I supposed to do to him?
CO: These people are not going to pop.
Birch: How do I know that? A female Hispanic that I stopped in Sheepshead Bay did pop, actually, for a warrant, and I arrested her. Female Hispanic. The Hispanics that we’re supposed to be going after. That are committing the crimes. The people that I—
CO: Did you think that she was going to pop?
Birch: Did I think she was going to pop? I didn’t put no thought into it. If you come up for a collar, I’m taking you in.
CO: Here’s what I see. You just described to me who’s committing the crimes. You’re fully aware of it. But you’re not targeting those people.
Birch: I am. I’m targeting everybody.
CO: Two male blacks.
Birch: Whoever is out there. If I—
CO: So you only saw two male blacks jump the turnstile?
Birch: If you’re saying that’s what’s in front of you, then yes, that’s all I saw, is two male blacks for the whole year jumping the turnstile. If you’re saying that’s what’s in front of you, I’m not disputing that. If that’s what I got there.
CO: That is what you have. That is not disputed here.
Birch: I’m saying, we’re also talking Hispanics as well. I stopped a lot of Hispanics, too.
CO: Seven male Hispanics. But more than half are female.
Birch: And like I said, everybody’s committing violations in front of me.
“I was shocked,” Birch said referencing 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 added. “I want to get stopped because I did something wrong.”
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