Director Stephen Maing's new documentary, Crime + Punishment, available on Hulu, follows a group of whistleblower New York Police Department (NYPD) officers challenging the department's unofficial quota system.
Despite several lawsuits and whistleblower evidence, the NYPD has always insisted it doesn't rely on quotas—but it's apparent to everyone on the street level, beat cops and residents alike, that numbers are the only game in town.
The documentary opens with Sandy Gonzalez, an NYPD officer under pressure to increase his monthly arrests and summonses, speaking to a group of other whistleblowers. "They'll eat you alive," one former cop warns him. Sure enough, shortly after, Gonzalez is put on foot patrol in a desolate stretch of the Bronx in the middle of a winter storm.
The documentary follows a number of other figures, including Manny Gomez, a former NYPD cop forced out of the department for objecting to the quota system, now a private investigator who works with defense attorneys to free people ensnared by that very system. Gomez interviews one man who's been arrested seven times; the cases against him were all dismissed.
Between 2007 and 2015, the NYPD issued nearly 900,000 criminal summonses that were later dismissed for lack of probable cause. "From the beginning, I saw how this job was," officer Ritchie Baez says in the film. "That it was not about helping people, not helping our community. It's about numbers."
Crime + Punishment is a sobering look at how America's largest police department talks about integrity but punishes the few officers who have the courage to stand up for their convictions.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Crime + Punishment".