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Which Direction for the Mosque Investigation?

October 23, 2006

As the NYPD reinvestigates the unsolved murder of police officer Philip Cardillo inside a Harlem mosque 34 years ago, how will Police Commissioner Ray Kelly deal with the roles of two powerful black men to whom he owes — or could owe — a lot?

The first, Benjamin Ward, helped Kelly ascend to the highest levels of the department. The second, Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel, could prove instrumental to Kelly, should he run for mayor.

Cardillo’s fatal shooting has proved to be one of the most embarrassing and divisive in the department’s modern history.

He was shot inside the mosque after responding to a phony tip that an officer needed assistance. But 12 suspects, held by police in the mosque’s basement, were released before being fingerprinted or identified, and no one was convicted.

Kelly promised two weeks ago that the department’s Major Case Squad would reinvestigate the shooting. His promise followed publication of a book “Circle of Six” by retired detective Randy Jurgensen. The title refers to six people Jurgensen believes played roles in releasing the suspects, from then Mayor John Lindsay and then police commissioner Patrick V. Murphy to Ward and Rangel.

According to a secret police document written in 1973, known as the Blue Book, which was only circulated among the top brass, department officials claimed Rangel had promised to deliver the suspects — after their release from the mosque — to the 24th precinct on West 100th St. for further questioning. They never appeared.

In 1983, when the Blue Book’s existence was reported by New York Newsday as Ward was about to be appointed the city’s first black police commissioner, Rangel denied having made any such promise. “For me to negotiate over a bunch of hoodlums with an officer I didn’t know is …ridiculous,” Rangel told Newsday. “I couldn’t promise anybody to the precinct.”

So whose version will Kelly’s report accept? Especially as Rangel is about to become one of the most powerful men in Congress, assuming chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee if the Democrats take control, and Kelly considers running for mayor.

Now let’s turn to Ward. For years he had been suspected of issuing the order to release the suspects. But, according to the Blue Book, it was not Ward but then chief of Detectives Al Seedman who gave the order — which Seedman acknowledged to Newsday in 1983.

It should be a no-brainer for Kelly to accept the Blue Book’s and Seedman’s version. Especially as Ward played a key role in Kelly’s career.

In an exhibition on Ward at the police museum a couple of years ago, Kelly described Ward as his “mentor.” In 1986, Ward appointed Kelly, then a captain, commander of the 106th precinct in Queens, following the notorious stun-gun incident, when precinct officers used stun guns to subdue suspects accused of selling marijuana. Ward later brought Kelly into the Office of Management, Analysis and Planning and [OMAP].

At Ward’s recommendation, Kelly — rather than Chief of Department Robert Johnston — became the “go-to” guy in briefing Mayor David Dinkins’ first police commissioner, Lee Brown. Brown subsequently appointed Kelly his first deputy commissioner.

Meanwhile, last week, sources say that a sergeant from the Major Case Squad contacted Chief Assistant D.A. James Kindler and Trials Bureau head Nancy Ryan about the mosque case. They are seeking, among other things, FBI files in the case.

Due Credit. The NYPD added the names of 101 officers killed in the line of duty to a memorial wall in Battery Park City last week. Detectives Dillon Stewart and Daniel Enchautegui, who were killed last year in separate incidents, were two of them. The other 99 date as far back as the Civil War.

Those 99 were discovered by retired sergeant Mike Bosak, an amateur historian, whose life’s work is locating unrecognized 19th century cops.

With support from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, he also conducted a decade-long battle with an uninterested NYPD to gain recognition for them.

Finally, former police commissioner Bernie Kerik signed on. He arranged a ceremony to honor them in the fall of 2001.But then 9/11 intervened.

Like everyone in the NYPD, Kerik recognized Bosak’s contribution. But, at last week’s ceremony, Bosak was not mentioned, either in Kelly’s remarks or in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s press release.

Instead, as reported by New York 1, Kelly said, “We combed back in our records to the Civil War. We expanded the criteria for line-of-duty deaths to insure that those whose noble actions to protect the good people of this city did not go overlooked.”

Bloomberg’s press release read: “The majority of these deaths predate computers and even more basic record-keeping such as death certificates. Members of the department’s Personnel Bureau examined countless documents and archival newspaper records to ascertain who may have died in the line of duty and the details surrounding their deaths.”

Bloomberg, who when he wants to can act deaf, dumb and blind, added, according to the NY1 report: “The inscription of their names on this memorial wall now, like their addition to the memorial wall at One Police Plaza not quite a year ago, is the result of Commissioner Kelly’s determination to, at long last, give these officers the recognition they deserve.”

Kerik — who has pleaded guilty to financial irregularities and whose taxes are currently under investigation by the U.S. Attorney — is now characterized in the media as lacking integrity.

Whatever one says about Kerik — [and this column has said plenty] — no one can accuse him of ignoring the contributions of subordinates.

Note: this column will not appear next week. It will return on Nov. 6th.

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Copyright � 2006 Leonard Levitt