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Everyone's Behind Giuliani's PR Pick

March 6, 1995

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani passed over his beleaguered Police Commissioner William Bratton's first choice to run the NYPD's public information office, but Bratton quickly rebounded by pronouncing himself "delighted" with the mayor's temporary choice, Tom Kelly.

Bratton's first choice, Al O'Leary, had worked for Bratton when he headed the transit police and was one of two finalists for the job a year ago. The other was John Miller.

But Kelly - not Bratton's former transit sidekick - is what Giuliani apparently meant when he said last week the office, known as DCPI, needed "a fresh start" since declaring that Miller and all of the offices 28 cops could not be trusted. Miller resigned last month in a widely publicized rift with the mayor.

Kelly had sought a spot in the NYPD for almost as long as his new boss, albeit in more modest fashion. While Bratton says he hungered for the commissioner's post since his Boston boyhood, Kelly applied to become a cop after graduating from Newtown High in Queens, but was rejected because of stomach problems.

So he became a journalist. After 17 years with the Associated Press, where he made his reputation during the tumultuous 1960s as a top street reporter, he became a press secretary for former Mayor Edward I. Koch, specializing in criminal justice matters. He was the first City Hall official on the scene in Brooklyn on a drizzly Palm Sunday evening in 1984 when 10 people, including six children, were murdered in what became known as the Palm Sunday Massacre.

With his appointment announced just a few days ago, it's too early to describe Kelly's job style, but he's already suggested a few things will be different. For example, his predecessor Miller occasionally suffered lapses of memory.

Once, he forgot he'd bad-mouthed Daily News columnist Mike McAlary to New York Newsday contributor Gabriel Rotello for writing that a woman claiming she'd been raped in Prospect Park had made it all up. He then said Rotello had misquoted his remarks about McAlary. Rotello, however, had taped the conversation.

One of Kelly's first moves at Police Plaza was to give his home and beeper numbers to reporters and to make a promise. "I'll never lie to you," he said.

Far out. Before the mayor goes too far out with his plans to civilianize the NYPD' press office, he might consider some questions from an office veteran, retired Sgt. Pete Sweeney, who oversaw the office's daily goings-on from September 1966, to November 1992.

With his predecessor, Jack Collins, who ran the office for 28 years before him, the two provided 54 years of DCPI continuity. Sweeney asks:

Printable versionbulletWhat will the civilians' qualifications be?

bulletHow will they be selected? Will they be political appointees?

bulletHow long will it take to learn the intricacies of the department that takes veteran cops years to understand?

bulletHow will they know who to go to for information?

bulletWho will take a job knowing they could be out after a new mayor takes over? What will the turnover be?

bulletHow much influence will the deputy commissioner for the department have, and will the commissioner back him up when reluctant cops in the field refuse to divulge information to a civilian?

bulletWhat loyalty will civilians have to the department? To the police commissioner? To the mayor?

More on Charlie Brown. The Mollen Commission paid $ 2,500 to the wife of imprisoned Police Officer Charles Brown in return for Brown's brother, an undercover cop, exposing corruption in the 30th precinct as the pseudonymous Officer Otto. According to Brown's police personnel file, which was entered into the court record at his 1993 sentencing for perjury, Brown had been disciplined for various departmental infractions that included suspicions consorted with drug dealers. One spot he allegedly met with them was Charisse's Variety Store in the 32nd Precinct, which, his personnel report said, was owned by his wife. Warned to avoid the spot by his superiors, he sought permission instead to work there on his off-duty hours. Brown's attorney, Franklyn Gould, countered that no drug arrests were ever made at that location.

Corruption watch. Commissioner Bratton says his long-delayed anti-corruption strategy paper will be delayed even further. He sent its author, the New Mexico-based management and media consultant John Linder, back to the drawing board to include in it a review of the reasons for the recent jump in civilian complaints against the police. Linder, who prepared Bratton's six other highly touted strategies, such as reducing the number of guns on the street and controlling youth violence, began writing the anti-corruption strategy in January. He says that because this is crucial to changing the department's organizational culture, it's taking more time. It's due within a month, he says.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.