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NYPD officers brag about milking overtime, call detainees names in accidental recording

Gothamist, Jake Offenhartz, April 7, 2023

Jonathan Wohl’s arrest last September was about as routine as they come.

The 35-year-old construction worker was staging a one-man protest against his union, recording himself on his phone as he stood in the lobby of the Midtown offices of Laborers Local 79. When security asked him to leave, he refused and the building called the cops.

In a strange twist of technological fate, Wohl’s phone, which was at that point in the possession of the police, kept on recording.

For nearly eight hours, as Wohl paced around a holding cell in the Midtown South precinct, his phone picked up conversations among dozens of cops who did not appear to know they were being recorded.

The tape, which was reviewed by Gothamist, offers a rare window into the daily work of a police officer behind closed doors – and the ways that a number of recent criminal justice reforms have changed the way officers process arrests and collect overtime.

In contrast to comments from top NYPD officials, who have spent yearslobbying against bail reform, rank-and-file officers offered another perspective, suggesting the additional paperwork required by the new law had been a boon to their paychecks.

“Bail reform sucks. But it’s also one of the best things that’s ever happened, too,” Wohl’s arresting officer, Shaun Enright, said to a coworker in the recording. “God is great, bro.”

The NYPD declined to make Enright available for comment on this story and declined to comment as an agency. The Police Benevolent Association, the union representing rank-and-file police officers, did not respond to a request for comment.

Milking It

Wohl, a father of four who grew up in the city’s foster care system, spent roughly eight hours waiting for his desk appearance ticket, which notifies defendants of when they’re next due in court, according to the tape. He said the cell was filled with feces, and that his attempts to retrieve a bottle of water were met with insults. Eventually, he said, one of the officers brought him water – inside a filthy cup.

At one point, roughly three hours after Wohl was first placed in a cell, an officer, whom Gothamist could not identify, can be heard approaching Enright, then lowering his voice to ask if he plans to “run some time.”

I’m going to make my money … I’m going to make it work.

NYPD Officer Shaun Enright

“Are you going to milk it a bit?” the officer continued. “Or is it quick?”

“I’m going to make my money,” Enright replied. “I’m going to make it work.”

The comments appear to refer to the additional overtime that officers collect while processing arrests. Allegations of the practice – sometimes known as “collars for dollars” – have dogged the NYPD for decades.

According to law enforcement experts who spoke to Gothamist, processing a misdemeanor trespassing charge shouldn’t take more than a few hours. The recording shows Enright spent an additional five hours writing up Wohl’s desk appearance ticket.

I’m going to make my money … I’m going to make it work.

NYPD Officer Shaun Enright

“Are you going to milk it a bit?” the officer continued. “Or is it quick?”

“I’m going to make my money,” Enright replied. “I’m going to make it work.”

The comments appear to refer to the additional overtime that officers collect while processing arrests. Allegations of the practice – sometimes known as “collars for dollars” – have dogged the NYPD for decades.

According to law enforcement experts who spoke to Gothamist, processing a misdemeanor trespassing charge shouldn’t take more than a few hours. The recording shows Enright spent an additional five hours writing up Wohl’s desk appearance ticket.

“Maybe that 18 hours that you spend on that f—–g cage in the back will change your mind about life a little bit,” an unidentified officer said.

“Those kinds of people, nothing will ever be their fault,” Enright replied.

It wasn’t immediately clear who they were talking about.

Though Enright had spoken cordially to Wohl during the arrest, and even praised his cooperation, per the tape, Enright’s tone shifts in the company of his fellow officers.

Privately, he is heard in the recording describing Wohl as a “professional victim” and a “total idiot,” joking that it “would be funny if I EDP’d him,” an apparent reference to the NYPD’s designation of some suspects as emotionally disturbed persons.

Wohl, who does not have a criminal record, said his protest was aimed at calling attention to a racist foreman, whom he claims the union was protecting. As a member of Laborers Local 79, Wohl maintained that he had the right to stand on union property.

But even as Enright acknowledges in the recording that the case will likely be thrown out, he expressed strong confidence in Wohl’s guilt, saying that Wohl had spoken to his lawyer prior to the arrest. (Wohl is currently suing a construction company he worked for over alleged discrimination).

“Anytime someone has a lawyer, chances are they’re a perp because they know they’re committing crimes,” Enright said in the recording.

The Manhattan district attorney declined to prosecute Wohl’s arrest in September.

Later in the recording, while speaking to a supervisor, Enright appears to reference the Black Lives Matter stickers on Wohl’s construction helmet: “By the stickers on his helmet, I could tell he was uh…” Enright trailed off.

“Yeah, I wasn’t digging those,” said the supervisor, whose identity could not be confirmed, but whom Enright referred to as “sarge.”

Wohl, who is Black, said he was horrified by the remarks, which he said suggested his race was a factor in his mistreatment by police.

“It’s a game the NYPD plays,” Wohl said. “They arrest people of color just to hold them in cells for hours and get the overtime for it.”

Corrections: This story has been updated from first publication to correct the amount of overtime police used last year, the spelling of Christopher Herrmann’s name and the nature of a lawsuit filed by Wohl.

Source: Gothamist