Tapes Show That Often, NYPD Treated Training as a Joke
Supervisors in the 81st Precinct often ignored required training during roll calls, but still required officers to sign documents which stated they had received the training. That's another of the revelations that can be heard on the recordings made by Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft which were obtained by the Voice for our "NYPD Tapes" series.
For example, in a January 30, 2009 roll call, a sergeant passes around the precinct's training log and says, "Anyone didn't sign this, sign it. The training [was], if you question someone, you're supposed to say 'Police, don't move.'"
The room erupts in laughter.
The NYPD began mandating regular trainings during roll calls more than two decades ago. The purpose was to augment officers' academy training and update them on new procedures, changes in the law, and new tactics. The subject can be firearms safety, safe driving, taking a complaint, ethics rules, arrest procedures, or one of many other subjects.
The roll call trainings are key because of the sheer complexity of working as a New York City police officer. There are thousands of evolving laws, rules, policies, mandates, and orders that must be followed. It is critical that police officers know and understand them.
The training requirement had a second purpose, which was to protect the city from litigation. In a lawsuit, if the city could show that a particular officer was trained in how to drive safely, for example, then it could argue that it was not at fault in an accident. So officers are required to sign a training log indicating they were instructed on that subject, and a record is kept of those signatures. That record then potentially becomes a document that can be used in court.
The tapes show that for whatever reason, that requirement was often taken lightly. Supervisors often either ignored the training or treated it with a loose attitude, but still required that the patrol officers sign the training log anyway. The phrase "sign the book" is heard repeatedly even before the roll call begins.
When the officers are supposed to be watching an instructional video on patrol car safety on January 29, 2009, the sergeant goes on with the roll call, handing out assignments while the video's announcer drones, "You have more of a chance of sustaining a debilitating injury in a collision than you do in a shooting."
In another roll call, precinct supervisors talk over a video produced by the NYPD Bomb Squad which is about detecting improvised explosive devices.
On February 4, 2009, a sergeant is heard expressing frustration that the training is not better organized. "Just remember that someone has a training job, they're in there with a cushy job," he says. "Let them earn their keep, you know what I'm saying? Lesson plans should be in the book."
At the end of an October 4, 2009, roll call, the sergeant winds up by saying: "Listen, does anybody have a problem signing the training log? Today, you were trained on, uh, let's see, RMP [patrol car] safety. I told you about be careful about the cars. That's a generic training. Even though there's nothing up there. If you have a problem signing the training log, then don't sign it."
His reference to RMP safety, earlier in the roll call? Three words, nothing more: "Watch the cars."
In an October 18, 2009, roll call, the sergeant also skips the training, but asks the officers to sign the log anyway. "All right, to you concerned about training, RMP safety and shooting scene protocol," he says. "Or 250s or whatever you want. You were trained on something. ... Sign the book."
The Voice asked the NYPD for comment on the importance of roll call trainings and whether skipping the trainings but making officers sign the log anyway was a problem.
There has been no response.