Before it was finally disbanded by Ray Kelly in 2002, the SCU – even then still less than 2% of the NYPD cops – were reportedly responsible for 40% of NYPD gun seizures in the city.
But in the years before Diallo was shot, the SCU had tripled in size, from just 137 cops to 438 in 1997. (There were 380 in the unit by February of 1999, shortly after Diallo had been killed.)
Before the expansion, the SCU recruited its members among highly qualified veteran cops, who were all closely supervised in their activities. The SCU’s commander, then-Captain Richard Savage, who vigorously opposed the expansion, was quoted as saying, "I used the selection process as a secret tool; personally interviewed everyone. I looked at arrest activity. They had to be highly recommended by their commanding officer".
Savage also personally reviewed each prospective SCU recruit’s personnel file for evidence that the kind of “energetic” street cops he wanted were not the “abusive” street cops he feared: departmental charges, shootings, or civilian complaints could easily eliminate even highly recommended veteran cops from consideration. “ I wanted people with no departmental charges in the police trial room, no prior shootings and no civilian complaints,” Savage was quoted as saying.