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Locked in, out by lockdown

August 27, 2004

For more than three hours Wednesday, employees, reporters and even uniformed cops at One Police Plaza were confined to their offices, prevented from leaving their floors.

Call it the NYPD's three hours of preventive detention.

On the second floor, a uniformed officer stood guard outside the office of Community Affairs, penning all employees inside and keeping reporters down the hall from leaving their warren of offices.

Outside the building, delegates from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, who had been picketing Mayor Michael Bloomberg over the lack of pay raises, were dispersed from the public park on Madison Street, which had been turned into a "frozen zone."

The tip-off that something big, or rather, somebody big, was afoot could be seen outside, where there were local and federal law enforcement types, a half-dozen high-tech police and Secret Service trucks, bomb-sniffing dogs and a cop in riot gear wearing a camera-helmet.

The sure sign was when the mayor, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Gov. George Pataki and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge appeared, surrounded by all the trappings.

After the display, the group entered Police Plaza for a pre-Republican convention security briefing. Except for a pool reporter from Reuters, no other journalists were allowed inside. Those already inside were not allowed outside.

The lockdown, which had begun at 10 a.m. when the participants began showing up for the show and tell, continued until 1:30 p.m.

So what is going on here?

Is the NYPD's security, scrutinizing all visitors to the building and forcing those without proper identification to pass through a metal detector, flawed?

Are the background checks on civilians and police personnel working at One Police Plaza ineffectual?

Is a secret terrorist cell operating inside 1PP?

Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehkasse refused to say whether it was Ridge who had asked for the lockdown.

"I would talk to the organizations that do the security for these events, the Secret Service and the NYPD," he said.

Officials at the Secret Service in New York did not return a phone call. Top officials at the NYPD refused to acknowledge the preventive detention had occurred.

"I don't know what you are talking about," Paul Browne, deputy commissioner for Public Information, said initially.

Yesterday, the following statement was posted on the Homeland Security Web site about Ridge's day in New York. "The city and the state, as well as many agencies and thousands of individuals, have come together in partnership to provide an unprecedented comprehensive level of security to protect this great city and the convention."

K and W. None other than Kerik will make an endorsing speech Monday for President George W. Bush.

Kerik and W. met after 9/11 when Bush visited the city and Kerik was police commissioner. They met again two months later when Bush visited the city on Veterans Day. A third meeting occurred when K briefed W. at the White House on Oct. 3, 2003, after K's three-month tour in Iraq to help start a national Iraqi police force.

After a news briefing on the south lawn of the White House, Kerik started to walk back to the Oval Office while Bush headed for his Marine 1 helicopter.

"Bernie Kerik," Bush called.

Kerik turned around. "Yes, sir," he answered.

"You're a good man," said the president.

The last word? Out of town on vacation, former Commissioner Robert McGuire called to say of this column's recent reports that phone dumps by the police immediately after the 1981 Brink's armed robbery in Nanuet, N.Y., turned up calls by at least one of the fugitives to the home of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau:

"I have never heard of this issue before. I never read a report about it in the Police Department. No one in the Police Department ever communicated anything even remotely concerning this issue to me while I was in the Police Department. I categorically deny any knowledge of this issue up to the present day."

Staff writer Sean Gardiner contributed to this column.

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© 2004 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.