Upward mobility and the NYPD
March 3, 2003
Here are three lessons we can draw from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's high-level promotions last week.
Lesson No. 1: The terrorism track.
Kelly seems so determined to make fighting terrorism his number one priority that he appears to have established a terrorism track for promotion.
George Brown, whom Kelly appointed chief of detectives, formerly headed the newly formed counterterrorism bureau under Marine General Frank Libutti.
Phil Pulaski, whom Kelly promoted to assistant chief, served as the department's weapons of mass destruction coordinator and headed the department's half of the FBI/NYPD joint terrorist task force.
Mike Tiffany, whom Kelly also promoted to assistant chief, commanded Kelly's revamped intelligence division under former CIA spook David Cohen. Kelly cited Tiffany for changing the division into a true intelligence-gathering unit that debriefs al-Qaida prisoners at Guantanamo Bay from one that served for 16 months as a glorified valet service for former commissioner Howard Safir two years ago.
Lesson No. 2: There is redemption for those hurt by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Take Brown, who is so straight a shooter that when he commanded Brooklyn South, he ignored complaints by Hasidic Jews that he was "insensitive" to their concerns.
Brown's so-called insensitivity consisted of his refusal to release a 19-year-old Hasid whose car had been seized for not paying $240 in outstanding parking tickets. Thousands of demonstrators stormed the 66th Precinct, known two decades ago as Fort Surrender after its commander released a suspect following similar protests.
Brown, instead, ordered reinforcements.
Result: He was transferred to headquarters by Giuliani, who made believe Safir ran the NYPD.
Also, take Tiffany. He, too, was buried by the Giuliani administration and lingered as a deputy chief for six years. Reason: his loyalty to former First Deputy John Timoney, who had infuriated Giuliani by calling Safir a "lightweight" after Giuliani passed Timoney over for commissioner.
Lesson No. 3: When it comes to race, things may not be what they seem.
Take Joyce Stephen, a black inspector whom Kelly promoted to deputy chief.
In 1994, Stephen commanded the 28th Precinct in Harlem, the first woman to do so. In December 1995, a racist and apparently anti-Semitic arsonist firebombed Freddy's Fashion Mart on 125th Street, killing seven people and then apparently himself.
Then a deputy inspector, Stephen announced she considered the fire a bias incident, and quoted black demonstrators outside the store saying before the fire that they were going to return to the store to loot and burn it and to "put the Jews in a casket."
Such candor was not to anyone's liking and Stephen never commanded another precinct. Some say that after the incident, she sought less responsibility. Whatever the reason, she was shuffled off to the borough command. She was later made commanding officer of the office of director of training at the Police Academy and then the office of employee relations at One Police Plaza.
Kelly's promoting Stephen to deputy chief and then saying that she is the highest-ranking African-American female in the department's history sounds pretty good.
But when it comes to promoting black officers, Kelly talks the talk but hasn't walked the walk. The key question is: What will Stephen's next assignment be?
"It was ugly," said a person who attended the association's meeting. "It's Eric Sanders all over again."
Eric Sanders was the short-lived president of the Guardians, the fraternal organization of black officers, who in 1998 was dumped after objections from the old guard that had left the department but still ran the group.
Collazo wasn't merely ousted as president at the behest of the association's old guard, which consists of its founder, retired Sgt. Anthony Miranda, who is now the group's "national executive chairman." He was expelled from the organization.
"What was my crime?" Collazo asked. "Did I steal money? No, I criticized Tony for financial irregularities."
He said he'll take that case to the attorney general.
Miranda says Collazo "can go wherever he wants," adding the association's books are open to all dues-paying members, though he was unclear about whether they can bring in their own auditors.
He then kissed every female promotee on the cheek as each passed by for his congratulatory handshake.
Looks like our businessman mayor is becoming a politician.
© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.