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Counter-Terrorists at Community Affairs?

February 6, 2006

Look at the lengths police commissioner Ray Kelly will go to in justifying his transfer of Douglas Zeigler, the department's highest-ranking African-American chief, to head the minor bureau known as Community Affairs.

First, Kelly discredited Zeigler's predecessor, the department's first female African-American chief Joyce Stephen, whom Kelly appointed a year ago amid much fanfare.

Kelly had asked her to put off retiring to take the job and during her tenure lauded her accomplishments. Now that she is off the job, Kelly's spokesman Paul Browne tells the New York Times Kelly was dissatisfied with her.

Were Browne's remarks a slip of the lip? Or does Kelly embrace them?

In addition, Kelly and Browne are making out that Zeigler's transfer to an expanded Community Affairs Bureau is somehow related to fighting terrorism.

"As the police department continues its dual mission of combating conventional crime and terrorism, the importance of community affairs in solidifying public support and cooperation with both missions has never been more important," Kelly said in a news release of Jan. 26.

Browne continued this theme last week, telling the Times that Zeigler's transfer was related to the department's mission of the "Three C's": counter-terrorism, conventional crime fighting, and community affairs.

No doubt the Times' reporter was so flabbergasted by this nonsense that he never asked Browne to explain the strategy and plans behind Zeigler's transfer: specifically how he would help fight terrorism.

Or perhaps Kelly's transfer of Zeigler was a response to the annual report of the maverick group, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, which noted there were no blacks in leadership positions in the terrorism battle.

Significantly, Browne said nothing to The Times about a disturbing set of facts, known at the highest levels of the department: that the most recent COMPSTAT figures show crime is up city-wide.

A ranking police official noted that by placing Zeigler in Community Affairs, Kelly, like former Chief of Department Louis Anemone a decade ago, was pigeon-holing or "ghettoizing" the department's few top black officers.

Back in the day when Anemone was feuding with the department's then highest ranking black officer, Chief of Patrol Wilbur Chapman, Anemone transferred two black chiefs, Benny Foster and Paul Sanderson, to Patrol, so that they would work under another black officer.

In Kelly's expanded Community Affairs bureau, the School Safety Division, which had operated under the Hispanic Chief of Patrol Nicholas Estavillo, will now report to Zeigler. That means that the department's second ranked black chief, Gerald Nelson -- a buddy of Zeigler from their days in the housing police -- will now report to him as well.

Back on the terrorism front, an officer noted: "The last time I checked, most terrorists came from the Middle East and have nothing to do with the African American communities of New York City. Maybe they are thinking of establishing a Community Affairs branch overseas."

The Fighting McCarthys [Con't]. With reports surfacing that one of the two Palisades Parkway cops who arrested Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy has had 26 civilian complaints while on the job only three years, maybe we should also examine Garry's past.

Early in his career, he was disciplined after two men filed a civilian complaint against him in the 46th precinct in the Bronx. The complaint stemmed from an off-duty, alcohol-related incident following the St. Patrick's Day parade.

In 2003, with McCarthy a candidate for the job of Chicago's superintendent of police, he told the Chicago police board of the incident, saying the two men had held a Doberman Pinscher and had menaced him and his brother, a state trooper, as they returned to the precinct after the parade.

McCarthy told the board he might have placed his hand on his gun and that the two men subsequently filed a civilian complaint against him. The complaint was dropped. But because McCarthy had alcohol on his breath, he was disciplined, he told the board.

A slightly different version was provided to this reporter at that time by retired NYPD lieutenant John Comparetto, now the chief of the Passaic County sheriff's office and a spectator at McCarthy's current trial in New Jersey.

Comparetto, who was at the 46th precinct the night the incident occurred, says McCarthy told him the two men holding the Doberman were drug dealers who threatened to sic the dog on him and his brother. McCarthy said he had reached for his gun but did not draw it.

Comparetto said the two men filed a complaint against McCarthy, claiming he had pistol-whipped them. But the lieutenant on duty determined they had no injuries. To settle the matter, McCarthy pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of consuming alcohol, Comparetto said.

A second off-duty, alcohol-related, incident occurred six years ago, supposedly the very night McCarthy was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Operations by former commissioner Howard Safir. This involved an altercation in a cop bar in the Bronx.

Police sources say McCarthy accused an officer of being drunk and ordered him to leave. The officer then dimed McCarthy to Internal Affairs, saying Garry had been drunk and argumentative.

Police sources say McCarthy was reprimanded by Safir, who took no formal action but warned him that as a Deputy Commissioner, he should no longer drink in cop bars and should walk away from confrontations.

Police sources say McCarthy was also reprimanded by another top official, who was heard screaming at him inside an office. A police source said McCarthy left with his head hanging and lamenting, "I embarrassed the job. I embarrassed the police commissioner."

He and his wife Regina are currently on trial in New Jersey for an off-duty, possibly alcohol-related incident that occurred a year ago. Two Palisades cops – Det. Thomas Rossi and Officer Roman Galloza – testified McCarthy and Regina struggled and cursed at them after they ticketed the McCarthys' daughter Kyla for parking in a handicapped zone.

After the two disarmed McCarthy – who, Galloza testified, had liquor on his breath and who was wearing his gun in his waistband – Regina allegedly retrieved it from their police car, shouting, "That's my husband's fucking gun."

As for Rossi, the officer with 26 complaints, none has been substantiated. A Palisades Parkway police official described him as "a very active cop" who has made hundreds of arrests and written over 500 summons a year.

No More Minder [Con't]. After a couple of phone calls, Your Humble Servant was again permitted to travel to the office of Public Information on the 13th floor of One Police Plaza last week.

In addition, I was allowed to visit the 2nd floor, where the in-house police reporters are based and where I spent the past 12 years.

However, first floor security informed me that except for the in-house press, all reporters must now make appointments before they can visit DCPI. Think of that: an appointment to obtain public information.

And just think. In 2001 while running for mayor, Michael Bloomberg promised more transparency in the police department than existed under Rudy Giuliani.

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Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt