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Downgrading the detail

November 25, 2005

Commissioner Ray Kelly seems better at protecting New York from terrorism than managing the officers who protect him.

Earlier this month, two more detectives — the only females in the P.C’s detail — announced their retirement. The departure of the two, Deidre Fuchs and Elizabeth O’Flaherty, brings to at least 16 the number of detectives and supervisors who have left his detail since Kelly returned as commissioner in 2002.

At the same time, a sergeant — previously dismissed and then returned to the detail — has been mysteriously flopped again.

Under former commissioners William Bratton, Howard Safir and even Bernie [Fifth Amendment] Kerik, the P.C’s detail was considered the NYPD’s most coveted assignment: a lock on overtime money, grade promotions and a window into the department’s most confidential goings-on. The price was loyalty, a sense that detectives were prepared to take a bullet for the commissioner.

Under Bratton – to whom Kelly is often compared — a special relationship developed between him and his bodyguards. After former mayor Rudolph Giuliani forced him out and he left New York, Bratton and his detail reunited for dinner whenever he came through town. Just this week Bratton — now Los Angeles police chief — and his detail were seen dining together at Elaine’s, the Upper East Side literary joint he’d frequented while commissioner.

What a difference in the detail today. Promotions have been sparse and detectives have been bailing out in record numbers.

The exodus began with Kelly’s dismissal of his longtime aide, Sgt. Manny Lopez, who had served in Kelly’s detail during “the old regime” — Kelly’s first term as commissioner under Mayor David Dinkins a decade ago. Lopez was considered so loyal to Kelly that when Bratton succeeded Kelly, Lopez never joined Bratton’s detail.

But in 2003 after the midnight shooting in Brooklyn of Timothy Stansbury, a black teenager, by Richard Neri, a white cop, Kelly blamed Lopez for not alerting him immediately and waiting until next morning. To force Lopez out, Kelly brought back another sergeant, Richard Angeletti. Lopez had dismissed Angeletti from the detail some months before at Kelly’s direction.

Now following Fuchs’ and O’Flaherty’s retirement, Kelly has dismissed Angeletti again, with no one, apparently other than Kelly, understanding why.

Not Quite the Safest. A nationally recognized research publisher has ranked the safety of American cities. But don’t expect to hear the results from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s boasted that New York is “the safest large city in America.”

That’s because publisher Morgan Quitno, of Lawrence Kansas, places New York fourth — behind such cities with populations over 500,000 as San Jose, California, El Paso, Texas, and Honolulu, Hawaii.

Bloomberg based his “safest large city in America” claim on outdated data from the FBI’s 2004 Uniform Crime Report. Even the Bureau in that report acknowledged the data was misleading, saying that the crime index that Bloomberg used — which gave equal weight to non-violent and violent crimes — had been discontinued in June, 2004, for lack of relevance.

Morgan Quinto’s head Scott Marshall said his ratings, placing New York fourth, were based on four violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — and included just two non-violent categories, burglary and motor vehicle theft.

So who gave Bloomberg his numbers, knowing the FBI had termed them irrelevant? Last week, mayoral spokesman Bob Lawson said the information came from the NYPD. Veteran department watchers see the fingerprints of Michael Farrell, who while serving as Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Planning under Rudy Giuliani made similar claims back then. Farrell, who subsequently left the department, has resurfaced under Kelly as Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning.

Neither Farrell nor Lawson returned phone calls this week.

Kelly in Context. The department’s unofficial official historian Thomas Reppetto calls Kelly New York’s most powerful police commissioner in nearly a century, placing him in the grand tradition of those who led the city during wartime.

Only World War I police commissioner Arthur Woods could be considered more powerful than Kelly, says Reppetto.

When Woods sent detectives to Hoboken, N.J., to investigate reports that German saboteurs had blown up local munitions plants, he was criticized for exceeding his authority. The criticism lessened after German spies caused a mammoth explosion on New Jersey’s Black Tom Island in which windows shattered in Lower Manhattan..

Woods also established formal liaisons with British and French intelligence services, exchanging information on American citizens suspected of bombing U.S. ships. To run the city’s counter-terrorism operation, Woods brought in a civilian deputy commissioner, Nicholas Biddle, a socially prominent Philadelphian.

In today’s war on terrorism, Kelly, to some criticism [at least in this column], has sent detectives on missions to neighboring states without informing local authorities. He has stationed detectives overseas, infuriating the FBI. He and his civilian Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen are now completing a formal memorandum of understanding with the CIA.

Reggie Gets Religion.
The New York Law Enforcement Foundation — headed by a true prince of Buff-land, Mister Reginald Ward — is honoring two NYPD chaplains, Rabbi Alvin Kass and Father Robert Romano.

Perhaps Reggie seeks to atone for his sins as the dollar-a-year deputy commissioner for technology of the Mount Vernon police department.

Perhaps he feels guilty for his treatment of former NYPD Chief Gertrude LaForgia, whom Reggie brought to Mount Vernon as police chief. He then undermined her, leading to her dismissal.

Or perhaps Reggie wants absolution for having hired Stephen Alster to revamp the Mount Vernon police department’s computer system. Alster was found guilty in a civil suit of sexually harassing Mount Vernon police officer Karyn Addison. Reggie, Alster’s supervisor, was found guilty of not protecting her. She was awarded $75, 000.

Alster was subsequently convicted of detonating a pipe bomb outside the Brooklyn apartment of rookie NYPD cop Yensey Thomas. He was sentenced to 20 years to life.

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Copyright � 2005 Leonard Levitt