His job: making Kelly look good
November 19, 2001
Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg reached into the past to select Ray Kelly as his police commissioner.
Now, Kelly has reached into his past to select Paul Brown as his first high-level appointment.
Brown told Newsday last week that his official role, while undetermined, will be in a senior capacity. If what Brown did for Kelly in the past is an indication, he will become Kelly's deputy commissioner for image.
Brown - who accompanied Kelly when he left the department in 1994 for a series of high-level government jobs, first in Haiti, then at the Treasury Department and the Customs Service - has been crafting Kelly's image for some time.
"Ray asked that I pass along some e-mails he received from [Customs] employees in the field on the day he left," Brown wrote this reporter in January. The e-mails, circled by Brown in red crayon, were panegyrics to Kelly.
"I would like to personally say thank you for all that you have done for the Customs Service," read one from Charles A. Giunta, the port director in Rochester.
"Your effort, presence and enthusiasm will be missed," read another, from Bill Brush, the Newark area chief inspector of its Advisory Board.
"You have accomplished so much for the service and for it's [sic] employees," wrote Mike Fisher, Newark's seaport supervisory canine enforcement officer.
But Kelly's reputation as a tough but fair commander derives not from an image polisher but from his own actions.
In a telephone interview last week, Giunta said Kelly "was the only commissioner that cared about deceased employees and their families."
"I lost an officer in El Paso in 1990. He was killed by a drug smuggler," Giunta said. "Kelly was the only commissioner who brought those families to ceremonies and visited with them."
The agent's widow, Deidre McCaghren, said, "Mr. Kelly has been the only commissioner in a long time that has cared about the families of surviving customs officers. And he made it apparent when he was around you. He talked to my daughter, my son, my granddaughter. He made us all feel like we meant something to the Customs Service."
Kelly, who will become the city's 41st police commissioner, is nothing if not sensitive about his reputation. Some say one of the reasons he is forgoing hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary from Bear Stearns is that he feels he did not receive proper recognition for his achievements as the city's 37th police commissioner - in particular that crime actually began to drop under his tenure.
Kelly may wince at the comparison, but the person whose role Brown's most closely resembles is John Linder, the New Mexico-based consultant who, courtesy of the Police Foundation, scored big bucks to advise Kelly's nemesis and successor, Bill Bratton.
Linder wrote Bratton's so-called seven police strategies for reducing crime that he and Bratton tried to pass off as the holy grail. Meanwhile, Linder went around town telling anyone who would listen that Bratton was a genius.
But while Linder fell out with Bratton after Mayor Rudolph Giuliani dumped him, starting a rival consultant firm with another Bratton crony, Jack Maple, Brown has remained devoted to Kelly. And loyalty, far more than image, drives Kelly.
Which is all the more reason one must ask why the book includes 16 never-before-seen color photographs of Ground Zero on Sept. 11 - taken by, according to the book's credits, David Fitzpatrick, who is a police detective/photographer. None of the color photos includes Kerik.
The book, in which Kerik reveals his mother was a prostitute and that he himself fathered an illegitimate daughter, was No. 1 on the Amazon.com best-seller list last week, Kerik's spokesman Tom Anetenen said.
Last night, Kerik's book was No. 25 on the Amazon.com list.
Kerik has been knocked for promoting the book while still serving as police commissioner and while the city is recovering from the trade center attack. Some have privately criticized the commissioner for violating the law enforcement ethic that real men don't eat quiche or reveal family secrets or cry in public, which Kerik has done on television.
Add to that the off-color jokes about Kerik's mother by Howard Stern and his sidekicks when Kerik appeared on Stern's radio show last week to plug the book, and it's easy to see why many at One Police Plaza feel a sense of discomfiture about him.
Responds Kerik: "It's my life."
© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.