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Evidently, he loves the job

November 12, 2001

Now that Ray Kelly has agreed to become the first person in the city's history to be police commissioner twice, one question lingers.


The problems facing the Police Department are daunting.

With the city bleeding financially, the $500-million overtime budget Mayor Rudolph Giuliani built into the department to reduce crime will vanish.

With the enormous pension benefits they will receive from working overtime in the World Trade Center attacks, record numbers of officers will retire.

And because of Giuliani's low-balling starting salaries, recruiting is at its lowest level ever.

"If anyone can do the job, Kelly can," said a former top police official who worked with him. "But I don't know if anyone can."

When Kelly endorsed Mike Bloomberg for mayor last month, Bloomberg said he and Kelly would "double-team" Bernard Kerik to remain as commissioner. But this column suggested that Bloomberg and Kelly knew that Kerik would not stay and that Bloomberg planned to turn to Kelly.

Although Bloomberg and Kelly wanted to string out the suspense, this newspaper reported yesterday that Kelly had accepted the job.

In taking the job, Kelly - the former Vietnam veteran and marine colonel whose bull-like presence on national television after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing calmed a shocked and frightened nation - will have to sacrifice a great deal.

Money is first on that list.

While the commissioner's job pays $150,500, that is believed to be a couple of hundred thousand below what he is paid as senior managing director of global security at Bear Stearns.

Then there's the heart bill disability Kelly forswore when he left the department in 1994, although his medical report indicated he had enough valve trouble to ensure him a tax-free pension at three-quarters his commissioner's salary. While working in the Clinton administration, he suffered a heart attack.

Although cops have returned to the department and upgraded their pensions, as former commissioner Ben Ward did when he developed asthma, those close to Kelly say he'd never upgrade his with the heart bill disability.

"Technically, he can," said the official who knows him. "Knowing him, he won't."

OK, so why is Kelly returning?

He hasn't articulated a reason, so we'll offer two: pride and vindication.

Kelly has never forgiven Giuliani for choosing Bill Bratton over him. He has never forgiven Bratton for being chosen. He has never forgiven either of them for bad-mouthing him over his policy of community policing, which Bratton's lieutenants referred to as "social work."

And he has never forgiven some top officers who worked for him for remaining under Bratton.

Although spotted at Campagnola, the upscale East Side joint Bratton and company frequent, Kelly is of the old school. He disdains the entourage that surrounded Bratton and that was enhanced by Safir.

As commissioner from 1992 to '94, it was not unusual for Kelly to drive himself to work. "He realizes that the job of commissioner is not a regal one," the top official said.

Never a Bride.
For the second time in 16 months, Joe Dunne has been passed over for police commissioner. Each time, no one in the department has been more deserving of the job.

As chief of department, Dunne got Howard Safir's support for police commissioner when Safir left. Instead, Giuliani went with Kerik, whom he knew and trusted.

This time, Kerik said he recommended Dunne to Bloomberg as one of a number of candidates. Instead, Bloomberg went with Kelly, whom he knew and trusted. Dunne, who is apolitical, had never met Bloomberg.

When Giuliani selected Kerik, Dunne acceded to the mayor's wishes and remained as first deputy, saying he loved the department enough that he would remain as dog-catcher.

This time, even if both Bloomberg and Kelly ask him to - which so far as we know, they haven't - he won't. The job of first deputy is whatever the commissioner decides it will be.

Kelly didn't allow his former first deputy, John Pritchard, to do much of anything.

The Child Is Father of the Man Department.
Commissioner Kerik has taken a vacation week to plug his autobiography, "The Lost Son." Here is his publicity schedule for the week.

Monday: "Today," NBC. "Fresh Air," WHYY-FM, Philadelphia. "Hardball with Chris Matthews," MSNBC and NBC News. Feature interview, Associated Press.

Tuesday: Jim Bohannon Show, Westwood One Mutual Broadcasting, Washington. Bob Grant Show, WOR-AM. Howard Stern Show, WXRK-FM. "Extra," Time-Warner. "Geraldo Live," CNBC.

Wednesday. Charlie Rose Show, WNET. "Good Day New York," WNYW.

Thursday: Talk/signing, Barnes and Noble Union Square. Joan Hamburg Show, WOR-AM.

Friday: Formal signing, Barnes and Noble in Bayside.

Saturday: "Judith Regan Tonight," Fox News Channel.

Sunday: Signing, 92nd Street Y. Book-Ends formal signing, Ridgewood, N.J.

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.