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Friendly façade a fabulous farce

January 7, 2002

Ray Kelly was sworn in as police commissioner Friday on a wind of such goodwill, you'd never suspect the ill will just beneath.

Kelly began by praising his three immediate predecessors - William Bratton, Howard Safir and Bernard Kerik - citing their "outstanding service to the Police Department and the City of New York."

The three, Kelly said, "helped make New York a better, safer place,and we are indebted to each of them."

This was rich.

Since 1994, when Rudolph Giuliani appointed Bratton to succeed Kelly as commissioner, Kelly has bristled at the mere mention of Bratton's name, accusing him of taking credit for the city's crime reduction and other programs such as the arrests of squeegeemen (see following item)that began under Kelly.

Safir, who knew nothing about the Police Department when he became commissioner (and not much more when he left), sought Kelly's advice about personnel, then ignored him, relying instead on such cronies as his deputy commissioner for public information, Marilyn Mode.

Even Safir ultimately concluded she was hopeless. Instead of firing her, though, he dumped her subordinate, Insp. Mike Collins.

Last week, in his first department appointment since being named commissioner, Kelly returned Collins to the public information office.

As for Kerik, here's an example of what Kelly thinks of his judgment.

In his book "The Lost Son," Kerik said of the department's longtime Deputy Commissioner of Management and Budget Joe Wuensch: "When I asked my deputy commissioner of management and budget why we weren't buying new cars, he kept coming up with excuses. ... The final straw came when I was told there was no money in the budget for an emergency appropriation to replace the 30-year-old telephone system. ... A few days later, I told [first deputy] Joe Dunne I was sending someone to interview for the job of management and budget. Joe asked if I was going to get rid of the guy in that job.'I already did,' I said."

That guy, Wuensch, has just been hired by Kelly as his chief of staff.

Then there was the appearance at the swearing-in of former Mayor Edward I. Koch. Back in 1994, Koch referred to Kelly as "Sour Grapes Kelly" when Kelly objected to criticism of his crime-fighting record.

"He had this brief moment in the sun," Koch told the Daily News about Kelly at the time, "and when Giuliani didn't reappoint him, his life was ruined."

Printable versionKelly's response to Koch: "He's a bitter, old lonely man with nothing else to do."

Also present at Kelly's swearing in was Chief Thomas Lawless, who heads Brooklyn Borough South. The department's Internal Affairs Bureau recently reprimanded Lawless for allowing his protege, Lt. Thomas Gray, to allegedly sexually harass two female officers, Sgt. Anita Ryan and Det. Cheryl Schiefer.

Perhaps Lawless - who in a federal lawsuit filed by the female officers was described by Gray as his "second wife" - figured that Kelly's goodwill would extend to him, despite Kelly's hard line on sexual harassment in his first round as commissioner.

Crediting Squeegee. Here's the word from Professor George Kelling on who actually deserves credit for solving the squeegee problem.

You remember Kelling, co-author of the "broken windows" theory of law enforcement that defined the Giuliani/Bratton crackdown on "quality of life" crimes.

Arresting squeegeemen epitomized the crackdown and became one of Giuliani's and Bratton's proudest boasts, although Kelly began the arrests in the fall of 1993 after one of them spit on a car in which he and his wife, Victoria, were riding.

Concerned about civil libertarians' charges that the department was acting illegally against a largely nonwhite population, Kelly sought an academic imprimatur and (through a $25,000 grant from the police foundation) hired Kelling, who wrote a 29-page report, "Managing Squeegee."

"Although police commissioner-designate William Bratton received considerable publicity as a result of his promise to eradicate them [squeegeemen] it was Kelly who initiated this problem-solving exercise," his report read.

Both Giuliani and Bratton ignored the report and took credit for solving the squeegee problem. Kelling never opened his yap to correct them.

Last week, however, Kelling broke his silence. Writing in The New York Times, he says: "The breakthrough for the Police Department into the realm of quality-of-life offenses was Mr. Kelly's decision to take 'squeegee men' during his first stint as police commissioner."

Asked why he'd never spoken out before, Kelling said in a telephone interview, "It wasn't my role. I've never made any secret about it. Nobody ever picked up on it."

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.