"What Is This, Russia"? The Brave Cop Imprisoned in a Psych Ward for Exposing NYPD Abuses
Photo Credit: Palgrave Macmillan
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
The following is an excerpt from the new book NYPD Tapes: A Shocking Story of Cops, Cover-ups, and Courage by Graham Rayman ( Palgrave Macmillan, 2013):
Editor's note: In 2009, NYPD police officer Adrian Schoolcraft exposed wrongdoing in the department to NYPD investigators. He was reassigned to a desk job. One day, Schoolcraft was taken from his apartment and eventually brought to a psychiatric facility. He spent 6 days there, against his will.
Halloween 2009: "What is This, Russia?"
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or afﬁ rmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. —U.S.Constitution, Fourth Amendment
Adrian Schoolcraft’s babysitter, a lieutenant, leered at him and said, “I bet you wish now you had come back to the 8-1 like you were told.” Schoolcraft ignored the remark. He sighed and slumped backward on his gurney in the hallway outside the emergency room in Jamaica Hospital, Queens, New York. He stared at the incessantly humming fluorescent lights, at the concrete block walls slapped with some vague sort of beige paint, at the sign over the nurses’ station that read, “We are here to help you.”
He sniffed at air that smelled of floors cleaned too many times with heavy chemicals. He pulled halfheartedly at the handcuff on his right wrist and listened to the metallic clink and rasp along the steel railing. He self-consciously tugged at the backless hospital gown the sergeants had made him don in the broom closet. He listened to a woman force herself to vomit again, to a guy who smelled like feces mumbling to himself in the corner. He wondered whether it was day or night. It still felt dark outside.
He reflected on the events of the past month: How his bosses at the 81st Precinct in Bed-Stuy put the black spot on him and stuck him with desk duty. The calls from Internal Affairs. The messages they left for him in the station house. The looks and sideways comments. The journey into Brooklyn to sit with the investigators for three hours. All his documents painstakingly assembled. Their earnest promises that his identity would stay a secret.
And then, that morning, all those hours ago—a whole career ago, it seemed—the lieutenant snatching his memo book and doing god knows what with it in the records room for two hours. His dad telling him to get out of there, him going home on a flimsy excuse; the dreamless nap, and hours later, looking out his window, the street lit up like Christmas Eve with NYPD rovers, red and blue flickering off the trees, the lamp posts, the houses, hearing them on the stairs, an army of white shirts crowding into his apartment, the key turning in the lock, the chief on his bed, arguing with him. Schoolcraft asking, “What is this, Russia?” Being thrown to the ground and rear-cuffed like any skell caught holding a deck while someone stood on his legs, and the chief stuck a boot on his head. The cops finding one of his digital recorders and saying something like, “He’s playing some kind of game.”
And then the dark ride down the Van Wyck to the ER where the nurses looked at him like he was Hannibal Lecter.
Lying there on his gurney, he looked fruitlessly for a clock. He needed to use the phone to check in with his dad, who had been calling investigative agencies to try to get some attention for his son. Later Adrian said he expected that at any moment someone would come through the door and order his immediate release. He felt watchful, expectant, his mind keeping him awake. His back and neck ached from his “arrest.”