NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

Exiled chief surfaces in Bronx

October 8, 2003

The police chief who was transferred as a public mea culpa after the death of a Harlem woman from a botched raid in May has been quietly named Bronx Borough commander, according to a police source.

Thomas Purtell, the former commander of the Special Operations Division, had been named commanding officer of the lowly regarded Housing Bureau as the third officer disciplined in connection with the raid.

His transfer to the Bronx yesterday was announced on internal police teletype but has not been announced publicly.

"I'm glad he's back on track," said another chief of the highly regarded Purtell. "He never should have been off track."

Alberta Spruill, 57, a city worker for 29 years, died of a heart attack after a dozen officers from the Emergency Service Unit, which Purtell supervised, knocked on her apartment door and tossed a flash grenade into her home. The officers were acting on incorrect information that a drug dealer was using the apartment to store drugs and guns.

In transferring Purtell at the time, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said he acted because "in light of what's happened in the last two weeks, we need a fresh look at supervision and training."

Kelly was praised then for short-circuiting possible racial unrest by taking responsibility for Spruill's death, apologizing publicly and disciplining three officers, including Purtell.

Purtell's transfer was seen by some in the department as scape-goating because Kelly did not discipline Purcell's subordinate, Steven Bonano, the commander of ESU, who was more directly responsible for the mistakes than Purtell.

In transferring to the Bronx, Purtell replaces Anthony Izzo, who will become head of the narcotics division. Izzo replaces William Taylor, who is retiring after Kelly passed him over for chief of the Organized Crime Control Bureau and of the Housing Bureau.

« Back to top
© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.