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Clamp down on wannabes

November 19, 2004

Is Police Commissioner Ray Kelly targeting police buffs in the war on terrorism?

Last month, Internal Affairs Chief Charles Campisi visited the Bronx district attorney's office. While Bronx and NYPD officials described the visit as routine - Campisi is said to visit each prosecutor's office twice a year - other law enforcement officials saw it as anything but.

Specifically, Campisi asked the Bronx district attorney's office to expand its designation as special prosecutor in the case of police buff Teddy Leb to probe other incidents involving buffs with police placards.

"This could be viewed as a legitimate security issue," said a law enforcement official. "If a private citizen can improperly get hold of a police placard and use it to get into, say, an airport garage ... "

Other officials saw Campisi's request as bizarre.

"The Bronx special prosecutor had been designated for a specific isolated case," said one. "They want to take a narrowly focused issue and bootstrap on it to go after others."

Leb, who heads an organization called NY Cops Foundation, was given a desk appearance ticket at Kennedy Airport on March 15 for an incident that remains murky.

Despite the efforts of five law enforcement agencies and two district attorneys' offices, Leb pleaded guilty only to a violation involving a Port Authority placard found inside his car. The placard had been given to him by a high-ranking law enforcement official.

Although First Deputy George Grasso wrote to NY Cops on April 1 when Kelly disassociated the NYPD from that foundation, citing "the seriousness with which we view the March 15th incident," a ranking law enforcement official noted that "what Leb did was not a crime."

Asked about his Bronx visit, Campisi said, "I don't discuss internal police business."

Bronx Chief Assistant District Attorney Barry Kluger said of Campisi: "I can say that he was here within the last month and discussed cases with the chief of the rackets bureau. I cannot comment on the existence of an investigation if one exists."

Strictly business. Doing a favor for Kelly's wife didn't get Joe Dipelle, the president of the Centurion Foundation, any favors from the commissioner. Dipelle, a regular traveler to Russia, was asked earlier this year to give Kelly's wife, Veronica, some help on an upcoming trip she and a friend were taking. Dipelle supplied her with introductions.

Kelly never thanked him, Dipelle says. Instead, when Centurion chairman Al Fried was spotted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, driving his black Crown Victoria, lights and sirens blazing, Kelly dispatched detectives from Internal Affairs to tell Fried, Dipelle and Centurion treasurer Robert Fagenson it was time to remove them.

Burying Bernie. Former Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik's stock at One Police Plaza is pretty low these days. It's not merely the $200,000 high-tech doors he supposedly ordered for One Police Plaza that ended up on Rikers Island. There's also the statue with the urn, symbolizing the ashes of the 23 cops killed on 9/11.

The four-sided statue - paid for by the Police Foundation shortly before Kerik left office in 2001 - sits on the first floor of headquarters. On the front are the words "Fideli Ad Mortem" (Faithful to Death). On the left side are the names of the deceased. On the right side is a quote from former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani with a picture of the Twin Towers and the Statue of Liberty. And on the back is a quote from Kerik.

When the statue was placed at Police Plaza in late 2001, there was space for people to walk around it so they could view each side. After Kelly became commissioner, the statue was moved, with Kerik's side placed against a wall.

Asked why the statue was moved, a top police official suggested "safety concerns."

Honor. Kerik gave his publisher, Judith Regan, an honorary commissionership after she donated $493,843 to the New York Police and Fire Widows and Orphans Fund in 2001. Despite Ray Kelly's claim that he has awarded no honorary commissionerships during this, his second, term, he gave an honorary commissionership to Michael Stern of the Intrepid Foundation. Neither Kelly nor Stern returned calls from Newsday to explain what service Stern performed to warrant the honor.

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© 2004 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.