Three More Precincts Filled with Recklessly Driving ‘S-Cop-Laws’
12:01 AM EDT on March 18, 2019
Three more NYPD precincts are staffed by reckless drivers who endanger the neighborhoods they are supposed to serve, Streetsblog's ongoing investigation into police officers' personal driving records has found.
Our reporters checked the plates of 201 police officers' personal vehicles parked in "NYPD-only" spaces at the 114th and 108th precincts in Queens, plus the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn, and found that 38 percent of the cars had been slapped with multiple summonses for running red lights or speeding — or both.
The worst drivers in the three-precinct spot check turned out to be at Park Slope's 78th Precinct — an irony, considering that the precinct has a well-deserved reputation for bike- and pedestrian-friendly commanding officers over recent years.
But the rank-and-file at the station house are among the worst drivers in the city. One day last week, we collected the license plate numbers of all cars parked in "NYPD-only" spaces, or parked illegally with NYPD-issued placards and ran those 89 plates through Howsmydrivingny, the camera and parking violation database, and found:
- 67 police officers' cars — or 75 percent — had been ticketed for some infraction.
- 54 of the cars — 60 percent — had been flagged for a serious moving violation, such as a red light ticket or speeding.
- 37 cars — or 41.5 percent — had multiple tickets for serious moving violations.
Worse, one cop's personal car had been slapped with 75 tickets overall, including 53 camera-issued speeding tickets and five red-light tickets — all since just 2017! (This cop's case is worthy of fuller examination, so check out that story here.)
The drivers at the 78th Precinct are pretty bad, but so are those at the 114th in Astoria and the 108th in Long Island City. Here's how those precincts break down:
At the 114th, where police cars fill side streets and sidewalks near the Astoria Boulevard station house, we ran the plates of 60 cars through Howsmydrivingny and found:
- 45 police officers' cars — or 75 percent — had been ticketed for some infraction.
- 37 of the cars — 62 percent — had been flagged for a serious moving violation, such as a red light ticket or speeding.
- 20 cars — or 33 percent — had multiple tickets for serious moving violations.
At the 108th Precinct, whose cars completely overwhelm a municipal parking lot and virtually all other on-street parking that residents of the area might want, we ran 61 cars' plates through Howsmydriving and found:
- 46 police officers' cars — or 75 percent — had been ticketed for some infraction.
- 32 of the cars — 52 percent — had been flagged for a serious moving violation, such as a red light ticket or speeding.
- 19 cars — or 31 percent — had multiple tickets for serious moving violations.
Taken together, in the three precincts, we ran 201 cars and found that 75 percent had gotten some kind of ticket, 61 percent had been slapped with at least one serious infraction and 38 percent had at least two serious infractions (note: the moving violations only reflect camera-issued tickets; many NYPD officers are reluctant to write speeding tickets to their colleagues).
Streetsblog's investigation follows Mayor de Blasio's announcement that he intends to build or lease more parking for NYPD officers — a strategy that will certainly increase the number of police officers who drive to work, studies show. Upon hearing de Blasio's proposal, we set out to determine the safety ramifications if more cops were driving through city neighborhoods.
In all, we have run the plates on 803 personal vehicles of police officers and other NYPD employees and discovered:
- 619 of the vehicles — or 77 percent — had at least one ticket.
- 471 vehicles — or 58 percent — had at least one serious moving violation, such as a red light or a speeding ticket.
- 300 vehicles — or 37 percent — had repeat serious violations.
In addition to the 78th Precinct officer with 75 tickets, Streetsblog found a cop assigned to the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem had run up 63 total tickets, including 34 speeding tickets and seven red light tickets. The majority of the moving violations were in Sunnyside, Queens, where the officer presumably lives.
The mayor and his spokesman have declined to comment on the inherent danger of having a police officers drive, given that a majority of them have received serious moving violation tickets and nearly 40 percent of them have sped or run a red light more than once. But de Blasio spokesman Seth Stein did tell Streetsblog, “The Administration is concerned about anyone who drives recklessly, regardless of their job.” He declined to answer a follow-up question about how these officers will be disciplined. The mayor has said that cops need to be able to drive because some of them live far from the city — a choice that they have made, he claims, because housing prices are so high in the city. The fact: A cop with five years on the job makes $85,000, before overtime. That's roughly $35,000 more than the median income in New York City, a city where plenty of people live on low salaries.
Phil Walzak, a spokesman for the NYPD, also sent over a statement: "Everyone in New York City must follow traffic laws. The NYPD has vigorously supported Vision Zero and enthusiastically promotes safe driving, and the results have been dramatic: fewer lives lost due to traffic collisions, and significantly safer New York City streets over the last five years.”
He also declined to answer a follow-up question about how the NYPD disciplines cops who have repeat violations on their personal cars. (It is true, of course, that the camera and red-light tickets are issued regardless of who is driving the car.)
But dozens of cops' cars have more than five serious violations in less than 12 months — which, under a pending bill by Council Member Brad Lander — would allow enforcement agents to impound the vehicle (if, of course, an NYPD officer would be willing to impound an NYPD officer's car).
Even as the mayor avoids the question, some elected officials are starting to realize that Streetblog's investigation is revealing that some of the worst drivers in the city are the ones who are supposed to be protecting us from the worst drivers in the city.
“Everyone should be alarmed at the number and frequency of these violations. That’s why I’m a co-sponsor of Brad Lander’s bill to get reckless drivers off the road,” Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer told Streetsblog after being informed that the 23rd Precinct driver often speeds through Van Bramer's Sunnyside district.
The horrendous driving by the 78th Precinct officers is a reminder of how difficult it is to change the culture among the rank-and-file officers who are supposed to be carrying out de Blasio's Vision Zero agenda. The current commanding officer, Captain Jason Hagestad (no tickets on his personal car, by the way) and his predecessors Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo and Deputy Inspector John Argenziano, were seen as very responsive to pedestrian and cyclist safety concerns. But their officers? Not so much.
The worst offenders at the 78th Precinct included:
- One cop with eight speeding tickets and three red light tickets.
- One cop with 10 speeding tickets and three red light tickets (which would subject his car to being impounded under the Lander bill).
- One cop with four red-light tickets and three speeding tickets, all since April, 2018 (another driver whose car would be impounded under the Lander bill).
- Another cop with three speeding since late 2018.
- Another cop with seven speeding tickets.
- A cop with a defaced license plate — yet seven speed-camera violations.
- A cop with six speeding tickets and three red light tickets.
- A cop with seven speeding tickets since September, 2017 — another rogue whose car would be impounded under Lander's bill.
- Another cop with eight speeding tickets and three red-light tickets (yes, he'd be off the road if Lander's bill was currently law).
- Another cop's car had a defaced license plate — but it didn't save him from 10 speeding tickets and one red-light ticket. He'd also be off the road if Lander's bill was law.
- One cop has 63 tickets since 2013 — including two for running red lights and four for speeding.
- One cop with 12 speeding tickets and seven red-light tickets. Oh, he also got flagged for having a covered plate — meaning he probably has committed more crimes that the cameras couldn't pick up. Lander's bill would have kept him off the road.
- Another cop with 42 total tickets, including 11 speeding tickets — enough to meet the Lander minimum.
- The aforementioned cop with the 75 tickets — 53 for speeding and five for red lights, all since 2017. He's another Lander target.
- Another cop with 10 speeding tickets in a short-enough period to trigger the Lander impound order.
- Two more Lander impound targets: one cop with four speeding tickets and two red-light tickets in less than a year and another with six speeding tickets and one red-light ticket.
That's at least 11 officers who would not even be able to drive to work under the provisions of a bill meant to keep reckless drivers in the general public from endangering the rest of us.
Not to be outdone, the 108th Precinct had a cop with seven serious violations; one with five; another with six; one with 18 speeding tickets and two red-light tickets (Lander violator); one with four speeding tickets and four red-light tickets; one with six speeding since late 2015; one with 21 tickets total, including five serious violations; and two with eight serious violations.
Meanwhile, the 114th also had more than its share of reckless drivers, including: a cop with five serious violations; two with six serious violations; a cop with three serious violations since only November; and one with four serious violations, plus three tickets for blocking a fire hydrant.
That's a lot of bad drivers.
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