NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

Mayor Mike: Kelly's Enabler

January 22, 2007

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's notion in the wake the of the Sean Bell shooting that adding $1.5 million to the Civilian Complaint Review Board will help to monitor the police department is, well, ridiculous.

First, the CCRB has nothing to do with the Bell shooting. The CCRB was founded - and continues -- to deal with only minor police misconduct.

Second, if Mayor Mike wants to better monitor the NYPD, he should begin by looking in the mirror.

As mayor, he has given Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly more power than any commissioner in the city's modern history. What other police commissioner has been allowed to station detectives all over the world or to supersede the fire commissioner in emergency responses - the latter contrary to the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and the practice in every other major American city?

Mayor Mike has also written Kelly a blank check, allowing him to do whatever he pleases with no virtually check on his authority.

In fact, Mayor Mike has allowed Kelly to run roughshod over the very agency Bloomberg now says he wants to better monitor the NYPD -- the CCRB.

Here is what Section 440 of Chapter 18A of the City Charter, which was added in 1993 when the CCRB was established in its current form, says: "The police commissioner shall ensure that officers and employees of the Police Department appear before or respond to inquires of the [CCRB] Board and its civilian investigators in connection with the investigation of complaints."

Yet after mass arrests of 1806 protestors at the Republican National Convention in 2004 - which resulted in not one felony conviction -- Kelly flouted the law and the charter by refusing for 16 months to allow CCRB investigators to question Deputy Chiefs Terence Monahan and Stephen Paragallo, two high-ranking police officials involved in the arrests.

And what did Mayor Mike say or do about it? Nada.

Not for nothing last September did this column call the CCRB, without the mayor's backing, "Dead Board Walking."

Nor is the CCRB the only agency monitoring the police department that Bloomberg has allowed Kelly to have his way with.

Take The Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption, formed under Rudy Giuliani.

Two years ago, its chairman Michael Pomerantz -- a former federal prosecutor who helped convict ex-cop Frank Livoti in the choke-hold death of Anthony Baez in 1994 -- sought department statistics to determine whether the NYPD was downgrading felonies to misdemeanors to create misleading crime data, as the Patrolmen's and Sergeant's Benevolent Associations had claimed.

Kelly refused to release the statistics, saying they were none of the commission's business.

And what did Mayor Mike say or do about it? Again, nada.

Citing the mayor's lack of support, Pomerantz resigned.

Meanwhile the CCRB leadership has been so cowed by Kelly that after he refused to allow its investigators to interview Monahan and Paragallo, its then chairman Hector Gonzalez refused to speak out publicly.

When Gonzalez finally got up the courage in May 2006 to do so, Kelly issued the following response:

"I'm writing to express my surprise and dismay at the letter I received from you and Executive Director [Florence] Finkle," he began.

"It seems to be a remarkable coincidence that your letter to me appeared in the press on the morning of the board's public meeting in scarcely enough time for the ink to dry."

He concluded by charging the CCRB was exploiting the Republican National Convention issue "seemingly in an attempt to get media attention."

And what was Mayor Mike's response to Kelly's lack of cooperation and his outburst at the CCRB's chairman? Yet again, nada.

Not for nothing does this column call Mayor Mike "Kelly's Enabler."

Four Times A Charm?
For the fourth time in the past five years, Commissioner Kelly is attempting to put this column out of business.

Two weeks ago, the department refused to renew this reporter's press credentials.

During the dark Giuliani years when this column criticized the man who had fired him as commissioner in 1994, Kelly -- then in Washington in the Clinton administration - would say, "You're the only reporter in New York with balls."

That all changed when Kelly returned as commissioner in 2002.

So far as can be divined, the problem began after this column questioned the unexplained departure of former Marine General Frank Libuti, Kelly's first Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism, who lasted but a year at the NYPD.

Kelly took a day off from fighting crime and terrorism to brave the Long Island Expressway and complain to Newsday's editor-in-chief Anthony Marro and Assistant Managing Editor Les Payne. Neither revealed the specifics of Kelly's displeasure. Payne said only, "He wants your head on a platter."

In 2005 after Newsday went into the drink, Kelly attempted to bar this reporter from Police Plaza. The department then provided a minder, Sgt. Kevin Hayes, to accompany me about the building. When Hayes was assigned more relevant police duties, I was again permitted to enter freely.

Last year after leaving Newsday, I was again barred from Police Plaza -- this time as "security threat." [Readers, I kid you not.]

Your Humble Servant's mug shot was placed in the lobby's security pod along with those of eight true miscreants, a couple of whom were said to have threatened Kelly's life. [Readers, this is a true story.]

After a phone call of two from the New York Civil Liberties Union, that restriction was also lifted.

In this column's 12-year existence, first for Newsday and for the past two years on-line, its purpose has been -- to quote the ancient words of former deputy commissioner and federal judge Kenneth Conboy - "to shine the light of the media into all the dark crevices of the criminal justice system."

This seems especially important now, because beginning with those dark Giuliani days, the doings of the department have grown increasingly secret.

To take an example that seems especially relevant in the aftermath of the Bell shooting: Until Giuliani, the department made public the findings of its Firearms Discharge Review Board - which examines every instance that a police officer fires his weapon.

Note, also: the Review Board's findings in the 41-shot barrage that killed the unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999 were never made public.

Despite Bloomberg's 2001 campaign promise to give the department "more transparency" than existed under Giuliani, the department under Kelly is more closed than ever.

While Kelly allows non-police personnel at the Rand corporation to analyze the department's firearms training, let's see if he ever makes the Review Board's findings of Bell's shooting public.

Moreover since the World Trade Center attack, the city's media has gone into a post-9/11 swoon, all but forsaking its critical faculties. Reporters cringe before Kelly's Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, who threatens "consequences" for writing critical stories. Those consequences range from lack of access to lack of parking placards.

Last year, Kelly began a sweeping investigation of the Detective Bureau to determine whether anyone was providing information to reporters about the murder of Imette St. Guillen. Kelly's investigation included "dumping" or obtaining the records of detectives' incoming and outgoing phone calls and threats to dump their home phones as well.

Ironically, the department's murder investigation had been aided by police reporting from both the Post and the News.

Yet not one newspaper reported Kelly's investigation of his own detectives. This column did.

One can appeal the denial of press credentials to the department's Public Information office's commanding officer, Assistant Chief Michael Collins. He and I go back a decade when Collins kept the office afloat under former commissioner Howard Safir's spokeswoman Marilyn Mode.

Since his promotion last year to Assistant Chief, he has not returned my phone calls.

In explaining the department's refusal to renew my press credentials, Lieu. Gene Whyte of the Public Information Office said, "Sorry, nothing personal." That is not correct. In the NYPD under Kelly, it's all personal.

« Back to top

Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt