A disgraced, former New York City police officer now insists he only hatched the ticket-writing scheme of issuing summonses to dead people that caused him his career as a means of satisfying orders from his superiors to drastically increase the 125 to 150 citations he was already producing each month.
Paul Pizzuto, a 17-year veteran assigned to the 120th Precinct in Staten Island, has now sued the city of New York and the NYPD charging he was unfairly terminated after his deceptive practices became public, even though it was his bosses and commanders and their undercover ticket writing quota system which pressured him into committing his transgressions in the first place.
Pizzuto, 41, was fired last June after pleading guilty in May to three counts of falsifying business records and was sentenced to 150 hours of community service. Filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, his suit further alleges he was specifically told “he needed to start issuing more summonses for red-light and seat-belt violations.”
Pizzuto adds, ultimately, he was relieved of his duties without so much as being granted an administrative hearing. During his time on the force, he maintains he was constantly threatened with punishment or demotion or even termination if he did not began to write more tickets.
“I always issued summonses to motorists who deserved the summonses and did not want to issue summons just to fulfill an increased quota,” the New York Post quoted Pizzuto as stating in his court filings. Thus, began his scheme of fudging numbers.
Pizzuto now readily details his scheme operated based on him taking information from legitimate tickets he had issued in the past. At that point, he would file a copy of the ticket with his NYPD bosses, but never sent duplicate paperwork to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle for formal filing and maintenance.
“I did not want to issue summonses just to fulfill an increased quota,” he said, adding that he prepared them in such a way that they “would not impact any motorists.”
In electing to instantly terminate Pizzuto, NYPD officials contend they weren’t obligated to grant him a hearing because his actions violated an “oath of office” offense, which is defined as a crime arising from “knowing or intentional conduct indicative of a lack or moral integrity.”
“It was the dumbest scam in the world,” one law enforcement source told The New York Post, completely and conveniently overlooking the fact top NYPD brass would have you believe it went undetected, right under the noses of the entire department, for at least several months.
The NYPD has also gone on the offensive in charging Pizzuto’s motives for only ticketing the dead seemed far from purely altruistic. The the married father of two is being described as being trapped in a financial crunch, a man intent on digging his way from underwater by padding his overtime hours in masterminding his scheme.
Officials maintain they only became suspicious of him after colleagues noticed he never had to testify or appear in court relative to any of his tickets or cases. Upon investigation, officers contend they uncovered his pattern of regularly using names from older tickets and dead people.
Also expected to soon again be on trial, at least in the court of public opinion, is the NYPD’s controversial, not to mention illegal system of incorporating quota systems.
In March of this year, the department was blistered in a 95-page report obtained by the Village Voice confirming a former Brooklyn officer’s allegations the precinct where he was assigned not only issued quotas but also underreported crimes as a means of manipulating overall statistics.
Adrian Schoolcraft secretly recorded the rantings of his superiors in the 81st Precinct as they routinely pressed their officers to make more arrests and verbally chastised them if they fell short. Arresting bystanders for doing “little more than standing on the street,” were all considered fair game.
Then last October, as reported by BlackAmericaWeb.com., Det. Jason Arbeeny was found guilty of the same falsifying business records charge as Pizzuto after planting a bag of crack cocaine on an innocent and unsuspecting Coney Island couple as a way of satisfying his arrest quotas.
During his trial former Officer Stephen Anderson, himself disgraced and similarly arrested and dismissed from the force in 2008 for falsely arresting four innocent men in Queens, acknowledged the underground system of quotas and characterized the ongoing practice of officers framing innocent victims as “flaking.”
At his sentence hearing during which he was granted probation, a weeping Arbeeny took on the face of many of his victims, pleading with Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach: “Sir, I am begging you, please don't send me to jail. I can’t look at myself in the mirror anymore.”
Two other cops have also been charged in connection with Pizzuto’s scheme. Stephen Gerwer also pleaded guilty in May and was likewise sentenced to 150 hours of community service and the loss of at least part of his pension. Charges were dropped against the third officer.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.