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The Return of Little Caesar

February 20, 2006

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has taken a page from the playbook of a man he despises but increasingly resembles — Rudolph Giuliani.

In what appears to be an act of revenge, the police department filed charges of insubordination against longtime Kelly critic, Captain Eric Adams, last week, the day after Adams filed retirement papers after 22 years to run for the State Senate.

At stake could be his pension.

The charges against him involve his October 16 appearance on WCBS-TV in which he alleged the department’s response to the subway terror alert earlier that month was political – timed to prevent Mayor Michael Bloomberg from debating his mayoral opponent, Fernando Ferrer.

Adams, a pebble in Kelly’s shoe for the past four years, later expanded upon this, striking at Kelly’s most sensitive zone – his image that he alone can protect the city from terrorism.

Adams said that although the police knew of the subway threat from Homeland Security on Monday, October 3, Kelly waited three days before deploying cops into the subways. Kelly then announced the threat two hours before the scheduled Bloomberg-Ferrer debate at the Apollo theater.

Why Kelly has decided to bring Adams up on charges involving the issue of free speech is not clear. The issue was seemingly settled in federal court in 1997 after the Latino Officers Association filed suit against Giuliani’s then police commissioner Howard Safir. The court ruled that an officer’s right to free speech was protected, provided he divulged no confidential information.

Adams is not charged with divulging confidential information. Rather, the charges – a copy of which was provided to this reporter – state that he appeared on television as a representative of the department without permission; divulged official departmental business without authority; and disseminated incorrect information to the public.

Adams says he was not a representative of the department but of the maverick organization he heads, “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care”.

Kelly’s action against Adams is reminiscent of Giuliani’s tactics against former first deputy John Timoney, whom Giuliani passed over when he appointed Safir commissioner in 1996.

After Timoney called Safir a “lightweight” and announced his retirement, Giuliani instructed city lawyers to research ways to demote him to captain, thus cutting Timoney’s pension.

Printable versionOnly the intervention of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, conveyed to Giuliani through his Staten Island political ally Guy Molinari, caused Rudy to back off.

Adams’ attorney Norman Siegel – who as head of the New York Civil Liberties Union had represented the Latino Officers’ Association in their free speech suit against Safir – called Kelly’s move against Adams “thin-skinned managerial decision-making,” and said he hoped Kelly had acted without the knowledge of Mayor Bloomberg.

“Why now?” said Siegel, explaining that Adams had filed for retirement last Wednesday, that the department filed charges against him on Thursday and that his trial is set to begin tomorrow.

“This is another case of Kelly leading the mayor,” Siegel added. “The issue of whether the mayor delayed the announcement of the subway threat for political reasons was behind him. Why bring it up now?”

No comment from Kelly’s spokesman Paul Browne.

The Disappearing Detail. The sole female in Kelly’s detective detail has joined the security staff at Columbia University. Deidre Fuchs bailed out of the police commissioner’s detail in November, and not because she didn’t want to work.

Her departure, in what was once considered the most prestigious detail in the department, brings the number of officers who have left it since Kelly returned as commissioner in 2002 to 16.

At Columbia, Fuchs will work under former NYPD Chief Jim McShane, who is a vice president and Columbia’s Director of Security. McShane also worked for Kelly. Back in the day when Kelly was first deputy, McShane and a half-dozen others who worked for him were so close to Kelly – or so they thought – that they all wore t-shirts with the inscription “Kelly’s heroes.”

When McShane left the department a couple of years ago, Kelly attended his retirement dinner in the Bronx, for about 30 seconds.

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Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt