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Kelly is the color of confidence

July 15, 2002

Responding to headlines of a seeming epidemic of prisoner escapes, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly performed a variation of the old bureaucratic dodge: Dazzle them with details.

At a news conference at One Police Plaza last week, Kelly dazzled them with colors.

He first produced a bar graph in sturdy navy blue, purporting to show that the year's 21 prisoner escapes - including three this month - were no higher than in past years.

He next displayed a pie chart, displaying, in harsh purple, that 17 of the 21 escapees so far this year had been captured. The chart also revealed in soothing red that four escapees remained free at the time of his news conference.

The piece de resistance was a second pie chart of blue, yellow, red, purple and green. It showed that the greatest number of escapes [bright red] came during the transportation of prisoners; the second greatest [between midnight and sky blue] from hospitals, and the fewest [plain purple] in the courts.

Even the colors Kelly wore at the news conference made something of a statement. Absent was the red power tie he has worn during his first six months, the same color tie he was photographed in for his official commissioner picture.

Instead, he wore an understated pin-striped suit, with a subdued navy blue tie. So do the colors make the man? Or do they reflect something about the only man in city history to serve twice as police commissioner?

Tarred by the Giuliani crowd as a soft-on-crime David Dinkins appointee, Kelly's merely winning back the job has been vindication.

Now, with crime continuing to fall, with the World Economic Summit and July 4 celebration behind him, any doubts he may have had about his ability to run a slimmed down department have evaporated.

Effortlessly, he leaped to the forefront of the escapee story after ignoring it for the past month.

At the news conference he announces the formation of a task force. Through his bar graph of past years' escapes, he shows the phenomenon is nothing new. Through his pie charts he demonstrates mastery of the situation.

And he now rivals the man who first succeeded him, Giuliani appointee Bill Bratton, as perhaps the best-dressed police commissioner of the past two decades..

Independence. Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rae Koshetz, who has probably fired more cops than anyone in history, is leaving the Police Department after 13 years

A prosecutor for nine years before that, Koshetz fought to maintain her independence in a para-military organization.

What some find surprising is where Koshetz will next hang her hat.

Having never worked outside government, she is joining the law firm of Ed Hayes to do civil work, which she has also never done.

Yes, that's the same Ed Hayes who backed the candidacy of the current Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch and who then hoped to manage the PBA's multimillion dollar contract for legal services.

But the two fell out after Hayes ran afoul of the Second Circuit over his handing of the Andy Warhol estate. Hayes still harbors a grudge against Lynch.

"It's no secret," Hayes said.

Should Lynch not deliver a good enough contract, currently pending with a state arbitrator, Hayes could back a rival candidate and, with Koshetz aboard, seek to reassert himself in the management of the PBA's contract for legal services.

He says he has no such plans but adds, "Never say never."

The No-Show. Anyone wondering why some people don't take Al Sharpton seriously need only read his latest news release, headlined: "Rev. Al Sharpton To Stall Trip to Inglewood [Calif.] Long Enough for Verdict to Come In on Abner Louima Police Brutality Case."

The verdict, says the news release, is "a cornerstone in the movement he has led for years. [Ex-cop Charles] Schwarz is charged with restraining Abner Louima as others sodomized him at Brooklyn's 70th Precinct. When the incident happened, Rev. Sharpton ... called for rallies and vigils promising to stand by Mr. Louima until justice is served."

The trial has run for the past month. Louima has come in from Florida to testify. The jury has been deliberating for the past week. Sharpton never appeared.

Asked why not, his spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger, said: "That's a very good question."

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.