NYPD Officer Edwin Raymond (photo via nytimes.com)
article by Saki Knafo via nytimes.com
Every morning before his shift, Edwin Raymond, a 30-year-old officer in the New York Police Department, ties up his long dreadlocks so they won’t brush against his collar, as the job requires. On Dec. 7, he carefully pinned them up in a nautilus pattern, buttoned the brass buttons of his regulation dress coat and pulled on a pair of white cotton gloves. He used a lint roller to make sure his uniform was spotless. In a few hours, he would appear before three of the department’s highest-ranking officials at a hearing that would determine whether he would be promoted to sergeant. He had often stayed up late worrying about how this conversation would play out, but now that the moment was here, he felt surprisingly calm. The department had recently announced a push to recruit more men and women like him — minority cops who could help the police build trust among black and Hispanic New Yorkers. But before he could move up in rank, Raymond would have to disprove some of the things people had said about him.
Over the past year, Raymond had received a series of increasingly damning evaluations from his supervisors. He had been summoned to the hearing to tell his side of the story. His commanders had been punishing him, he believed, for refusing to comply with what Raymond considered a hidden and ‘‘inherently racist’’ policy.
Raymond checked in to the department’s employee-management office in downtown Manhattan. Three other officers waited there with him, all dressed as though for a funeral or parade, all hoping they would be judged worthy of a promotion and a raise. One officer had gotten in trouble for pulling a gun on his ex-girlfriend’s partner. ‘‘Everyone was nervous,’’ Raymond says. ‘‘I was the only one who was confident, because I knew I’d done nothing wrong.’’
Hours crawled by. Finally, a sergeant announced that the officials — ‘‘executives,’’ as they’re known in the department — were ready to see them. One by one, the officers entered a conference room. Raymond saluted the executives and stated his name. Then the executives began to speak. Beneath the stiff woolen shell of Raymond’s dress coat, tucked away in his right breast pocket, his iPhone was recording their muffled voices.
Edwin Raymond in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / MAGNUM, FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)
Over the last two years, Raymond has recorded almost a dozen officials up and down the chain of command in what he says is an attempt to change the daily practices of the New York Police Department. He claims these tactics contradict the department’s rhetoric about the arrival of a new era of fairer, smarter policing. In August 2015, Raymond joined 11 other police officers in filing a class-action suit on behalf of minority officers throughout the force. The suit centers on what they claim is one of the fundamental policies of the New York Police Department: requiring officers to meet fixed numerical goals for arrests and court summonses each month. In Raymond’s mind, quota-based policing lies at the root of almost everything racially discriminatory about policing in New York. Yet the department has repeatedly told the public that quotas don’t exist.