Kelly makes his mark in 100 days
April 8, 2002
Now that Ray Kelly has been police commissioner for 100 days, let's see how he's doing.
Background. Kelly, the only person in the city's history to serve twice as police commissioner, is perhaps the most qualified person ever to have the job. A 31-year police veteran, he knows the department as well or better than anyone. And he has national and international experience from heading the police-training mission to Haiti, to serving as an undersecretary at the U.S. Treasury Department and as commissioner of customs.
Appointments. Kelly's most interesting appointments have been civilians. A former marine general, a high-ranking CIA official and a Wall Street attorney have the top department positions. Kelly seems closer to them than to top police officials.
Perhaps the person closest to him is his aide of 10 years, Paul Browne, whose title, deputy commissioner of administration, belies his role as Keeper of Kelly's Image. Browne was the only department official Kelly permitted to attend his historic seance recently with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was formerly ex-communicated by the Giuliani administration.
Browne even has his own aide - assistant commissioner of image, Robert Lewis.
Crime-fighting. Murders, the bellwether crime, have dropped 31 percent through March from a year ago. Major crimes have fallen nearly 8 percent. Yet shootings have risen 17 percent; gun arrests, 25 percent. And for the week ending March 31, murders increased from 3 to 17, a 467 percent increase if you enjoy tabulating percentages.
Weekly statistics mean nothing, of course, although they were trumpeted by the department for the past eight years under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani when crime was falling. Now, with the cutting of the department's built-in "Operation Condor" overtime budget, the potential looms for crime rises, which may be beyond Kelly's or anyone else's ability to control.
The media. In contrast to Giuliani, Kelly wants an "open" department. He has developed relationships with reporters and has weekly news conferences where he answers nearly all questions. [One he didn't answer was whether he will retain William Allee as chief of detectives.]
Kelly also knows how to send messages through the media. At last week's briefing, he offered that Sean Ryan - a cop with a clean record who says he shot and killed an unarmed auto theft suspect who lunged at him with what he believed to be a weapon, wouldn't be back on patrol anytime soon.
Style. Low and low-down. This is how involved Kelly is in the day-to-day operation of the department. It also may indicate Kelly does not fully trust his top brass.
The day after an officer shot a civilian in the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn recently, Kelly walked the streets of the precinct, seeking input from the community's business leaders. Six weeks ago in the 71st Precinct, he stopped a patrol car at a light and asked the driver, "Mind if I take a ride with you?" Kelly then jumped in, terrifying the poor cop, who wasn't wearing his cap.
Chip on the Shoulder? Those who work with Kelly say he remains consumed by his firing by Giuliani in 1994 and is determined to place his stamp on the department. While out of office he lashed out at his successor, Bill Bratton. Last month, he welcomed Bratton back at One Police Plaza to attend a COMPSTAT crime strategy meeting, a program Bratton had founded that has received national recognition.
More recently, Kelly has been privately belittling his predecessor, Bernard Kerik, the third-grade detective with no college degree and only eight years on the job, who in his last month awarded medals and promotions to all his friends.
Was it coincidence Kelly rehired Joe Wuench and placed him in his office as a top deputy after Kerik had fired him? More recently, to guffaws from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and disgruntlement of some black officers, Kelly sent police recruiters to Ivy League campuses - as the CIA and FBI do.
At the same time, Kelly, a lawyer with an advanced degree from Harvard, dismantled one of the department's most successful minority recruitment programs - that of school safety and traffic officers, who after two years can become cops, waiving the two-year college requirement, as military officers can when they join the force.
Kelly's spokesman Michael O'Looney says Kelly's scrapping the program is unrelated to its having been begun by Kerik. It has to do, he said, with Kelly's determination to raise the department's educational standards.
Meanwhile the department's unofficial historian Thomas Reppetto has expressed an interest in purchasing the bust obtained by One Police Plaza.
© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.