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DCPI: Never Underestimate Incompetence

July 17, 2006

The New York Post ran a front page exclusive last Monday, reporting that the NYPD had recruited its first Hasidic cop. The story, by its veteran police bureau chief Murray Weiss, said that 24-year-old Joel Witriol of Brooklyn would start that day at the Police Academy.

To confirm his story, informed sources say, Weiss spoke over a two-week period with officers in the department’s public information office, known as DCPI.

The night before the story ran, however, the department notified Witriol that he was four credits shy of the 60 college credits the department requires, and would not enter the incoming class of 1,560 recruits.

But nobody in DCPI alerted Weiss, whose front page exclusive ran under the provocative headline, “NYPD Jew.”

The story also prompted the Daily News to gleefully report the next day: “A Hasidic scholar from Brooklyn wasn’t hired as part of the NYPD’s newest class of recruits as the New York Post claimed its front page yesterday.”

By way of explanation, the News added, “Police officials said it was not unusual, given the volume of applicants, that candidates are told at the last minute whether they should report for the recruits’ first day.”

So what happened? Why didn’t anyone at DCPI inform Weiss, with whom police officials had been cooperating on the story? Did someone deliberately embarrass him and the Post, perhaps because Weiss has been a recent thorn in Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s side? Two months ago, for example, he wrote that a recently retired FBI anti-terrorism expert just hired by the NYPD quit on the spot after Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen gratuitously bad-mouthed the bureau.

When it comes to the NYPD, conspiracy theories such as these abound. Here, though, the answer might be simpler. As the former Deputy Commissioner for Public Information of two decades ago Alice T. McGillion used to say, referring to conspiracy theories: “Never underestimate incompetence.”

The current Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne is anything but incompetent. But rather than representing the department, he represents Kelly – and Kelly’s single-minded agenda, terrorism.

More than one reporter at One Police Plaza has noted that unless terrorism is the subject, Kelly and DCPI appear disinterested.

A case in point. On July 1, the day after Kelly’s predecessor Bernard Kerik pleaded guilty to two corruption-related misdemeanors, Kelly announced he had asked three counter-terrorism authorities to independently review the NYPD’s counter-terrorism operations so that he could “receive a diverse analysis from them.”

Less than a week later, Alan Newton, a Bronx man, was released from prison after serving 22 years for a rape he did not commit. His release came 12 years after he first made a motion for the results of DNA testing, which the police, as part of its routine criminal investigation, claimed had been lost. Only after a series of motions did the department locate the evidence — in precisely the spot it was supposed to be.

So far as is known, neither Kelly, Browne, DCPI, nor anyone else has announced an internal investigation to determine why the evidence had been declared “lost” for all those years. Nor has Kelly said anything about outside consultants independently examining who was responsible for the so-called loss so that Kelly can receive a diverse analysis from them.

Friends. Kelly may resent Bill Bratton (and every other recent police commissioner for that matter) but he apparently wants to claim at least one of Bratton’s friends as his own. Since Kelly refuses to meet with Bratton or even take his phone calls and is too proud or stubborn to seek Bratton’s advice on such things as reducing the murder rate, maybe he figures some of Bratton’s old magic will rub off on him through his friends.

Take the flamboyant attorney, man-about-town and recent author Ed Hayes.

A snippet of the Hayes-Kelly relationship was recently revealed at the trial of the two mafia cops, one of whom, Stephen Caracappa, Hayes represented.

In seeking to show that Hayes had a conflict of interest because of his ties to the NYPD, Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Caracappa’s co-defendant Louis Eppolito, cited Hayes’ recently published autobiography “Mouthpiece.” In it, Hayes mentions that Kelly attended a Hayes birthday bash at his east side apartment with Kelly’s sidekick, Charlie DeRienzo.

Kelly thinks so highly of DeRienzo that in 2002, he telephoned former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey to push DeRienzo for top police dog at the Port Authority. The following year when Charlie was sacked, Kelly made him an NYPD deputy commissioner.

In a telephone interview, Hayes explained that Kelly had called him about DeRienzo when he left the Port Authority. “He [Kelly] had Charlie call me. He [DeRienzo] had some issues when he left the Port Authority. We became very close friends.”

Hayes also described Bratton — with whom he said he had dinner last week — as a “very close friend,” adding that he was “even closer” to Bratton’s first deputy and now Miami police chief John Timoney,” and “even closer” to Bratton’s attorney wife Ricki Klieman, with whom Hayes partnered on Court TV.

As for Kelly, Hayes said, “He is a friend but not a close friend. I admire him. I admire his intensity.”

Asked how he would compare Kelly to Bratton, whom Hayes has described as “the most significant law enforcement leader of our time and perhaps the 20th century,” Hayes said of Kelly, “You’d have to put him in that category now.”

As for Hayes’ supposed conflict of interest, federal judge Jack Weinstein dismissed Bondy’s charge as “trivia.”

Can It Be True? Is Newark’s new mayor Cory Booker considering Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy as its next police chief? Has McCarthy, as sources say, been interviewed twice for the job?

Readers of this column are acquainted with McCarthy’s troubles with the Palisades Parkway police and its traffic court. Suffice it to say that if Ray Kelly feels McCarthy’s transgressions don’t rise to the level of internal discipline, why should Newark’s Cory Booker?

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Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt