A Rare Rebuke for Kelly
February 13, 2006
A Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge has issued a rare curb on Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's authority.
Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam ruled that the department – i.e., Kelly – could no longer prevent cops from joining the Port Authority police department by withholding their personnel files.
In 2003, a year after becoming commissioner, Kelly ordered that the files be withheld from Port Authority investigators and from the cops themselves. His stated rationale, police sources say, was that the P.A. police were "cherry-picking" to select their friends.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which filed the suit, said Kelly's real reason was "a blatant attempt to prevent them [cops] from leaving the NYPD because the department is suffering a recruitment and retention problem."
PBA officials say the department fell 400 officers short of its 1,500 slots for the January class. Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne did not return a phone call.
In our post-9/11 world, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has granted Kelly more power than any police commissioner in modern city history. There are those who say that – as Kelly's Port Authority policy attests – Kelly and department have become a law unto themselves.
With Bloomberg's acquiescence, Kelly violated the city charter for 16 months by refusing to cooperate with the Civilian Complaint Review Board following complaints of police misconduct at the 2004 Republican national convention. Although the charter mandates that the department cooperate with the CCRB, Bloomberg said nothing.
Kelly also refused to turn over department records to the Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption, which had sought to examine whether officers were downgrading crimes from felonies to misdemeanors as charged by Lynch and Ed Mullins, the president of the sergeants' union. In protest, the commission's chairman quit. Bloomberg didn't utter a peep.
Instead, he appointed a new chairman. So far as is known, Kelly hasn't turned the records over to him either.
Voices criticizing Kelly have been few and far between.
After the first march protesting the Iraqi War in February, 2003, Federal District Judge Charles Haight took issue with the NYPD's tactics. Detectives had questioned 274 arrestees in their jail cells about their political beliefs, entering their responses in what the department called a "demonstration debriefing form."
Kelly, who in his financial disclosure forms lists himself as a "non-participating member" of the state bar, said at the time the detainees had been properly "debriefed" as "part of the arrest process."
Haight had some choice words for Kelly over that. A pilot who returns from a mission is debriefed, Haight said. A defector is debriefed by agents. "These persons arrested," he pointed out, "were in policy custody."
In the Port Authority case, it is not clear whether Kelly or other legal geniuses came up with the city's two arguments that Justice Abdus-Salaam rejected. The first was that cops might sue the department if they saw their files. The second was that no reciprocity exists between the NYPD and the Port Authority police.
Abdus-Salaam noted that the first problem could easily be solved by having any cop seeking his file sign a waiver, promising not to sue.
As for the lack of reciprocity, the reason for that, noted PBA attorney Richard Steer, was that no one from the Port Authority police was seeking to join the NYPD and take a 30 per cent pay cut.
Mount Vernon Merry-Go-Round. Latest casualty in the Mount Vernon police musical chairs department: retired NYPD captain Gerald Mines, who served as that city's police commissioner for just 15 days.
Police sources say Mines, 62, a 42-year veteran and member of the NYPD's Shomrim Society for Jewish officers, was recruited by Reginald Ward, one of New York City's Princes of Buff-dom.
Ward, who heads something called the New York Law Enforcement Foundation, also serves as a dollar-a-year deputy commissioner of technology in Mount Vernon.
In 1998, he recruited retired NYPD Chief Gertrude LaForgia, one of the department's highest-ranked females, as Mount Vernon's police commissioner. LaForgia left in 2001, after refusing to promote Ward's cronies. She attributed her departure to what she said were two unqualified deputies with political ties to the mayor, one of whom was Reggie.
It is not known what role, if any, Ward played in Mines' resignation. Neither Ward nor Davis returned phone calls. The search for a successor is said to be on.
No More Minder [Con't]. Your Humble Servant has wondered why his every footstep at One Police Plaza is monitored. Inside the circular security pod on the building's first floor lies the answer.
On the pod's inner wall are posted eight mug shots of people who have either threatened or committed some form of mayhem. One is a woman who comes into the building drunk and creates a disturbance. Another is a retired officer who tries to sneak inside. Two others are people said to have threatened to murder Commissioner Kelly.
Beneath them towards the bottom of the pod, a ninth mug shot has been posted. It is of Your Humble Servant.
So let me assure both readers and Commissioner Kelly that I have never been arrested. Nor would I ever threaten to murder him or anyone else. The only murder and mayhem I commit is in print.
Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt