The New York City Police Department has destroyed evidence of its officers issuing up to 850,000 wrongful summonses, new documents claim.
A class action suit alleges that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and former Chief of Department Joseph Esposito deleted texts, emails and paperwork referring to summonses.
The suit alleges that they were secretly applying pressure to frontline officers to issue more summonses after falling short of quotas for traffic offences and low-level crime.
One text obtained by the lawyers behind the suit showed a senior officer, known as Sgt. Carty, berating a member of staff for not reaching his ‘seat belt number’.
It read: ‘We missed seat belt number by 30 last week unacceptable. if need be u guys will go with me 2 traffic stat 2 explain why u missed’ (sic).
Another, from Capt. Andrew Benjamin, referred to an officer only making one arrest in 50 hours and stated: ‘This has to stop.’
But when attorneys requested all correspondence from the two NYPD top chiefs in which summonses were mentioned, which would have included the texts, they were told none existed.
The news comes after a study in April found that nearly 20 per cent of summonses in a 10-year period to 2013 were dismissed due to lack of police evidence raising fears that officers were making too many arrest without enough evidence.
Now attorney Elinor Sutton has filed to Manhattan Federal Court seeking sanctions against the city, according to the New York Daily News.
In a 15-page letter, she wrote: ‘It is simply not tenable that Commissioner Kelly and Chief Esposito did not — in the entire period of 2007 through the present — write or receive emails using terms related to the word “summons”.
‘The spoliation of this evidence clearly demonstrates Defendants’ bad-faith, grossly negligent, or at least, negligent destruction of relevant documents.’
She added that documents from meetings about crime statistics may have been shredded due to an on-the-books policy.
A summons is a written notification to a party telling them where and when they need to be in court.
Some summons cases can leave the recipient with a criminal record.
In terms of road traffic offences, the defendant can receive a disqualification, penalty points or a fine.
It has been reported previously that officers are expected to meet quotas or lose sick pay and holiday benefits.
The trial is expected to start early next year.